Friday, July 26, 2019

Letting it Go

This year the blog has been (mostly) quiet. Things are chugging along as they should (despite an unscheduled break due to a bit of a pony cold, but things are on track again) and since Summer is usually a busy time, I tend to let the blog keel over and die a bit despite continuing to ride and make improvements. 

This year in particular feels different though - previously I had a pretty good history of marking all of my rides and delving deep into the particulars of each ride. Every recap had a beginning, middle, and end. Every year I had monthly, if not quarterly goals. 

And this year, I just kinda... let it go.

And look at that outcome.
Not that we are riding less or that we've hit a wall, but I think part of me has finally understood this whole process. I don't need to write goals every 30 days to achieve things with Annie. I don't need to set hard deadlines to meet certain targets.  

A year ago, I had big dreams and big plans. I wanted to push past my own boundaries - specifically in the jump ring - and I wanted to push Annie to become a better athlete. And, it didn't happen. We hit a few walls and we had a few things to suss out before either of us could move on.

And this year I kinda just accepted it all. Whatever will be, will be.

A flare up in her cold meant time off, which would have had a
Year-Ago-Me freaking out that we have a show next weekend.
To be honest, I'm still kinda freaking out, but it isn't consuming
me like it would have .
I can't push myself or my horse past what we are capable of, and I certainly can't expect Annie to meet me halfway when my goals do not align with her current training and/or physical capabilities. It's not to say I can't have those dreams or aspirations, but there has to be a method to the madness so that the end plan makes sense and has value. 

And all of these things haven't come easy to us. Throughout this entire journey with Annie, I've had multiple professionals tell me my horse is weak and physically immature. Whether or not it has to do with her life long before I got her or just her physical attributes, I don't know. But regardless of it all, I poured everything I had into making her the best horse she can be.

Endless hours of blood, sweat, and tears have gone into our relationship. Seeds of frustration grew roots deep into my foundation, and it took time to shake them loose and let them wilt away. I have a newfound respect for my relationship with Annie, and I feel a sense of pride when I look at her and know I have done (and continuing to do) everything I can to make her the very best partner for me. 

It's been a hell of a journey, and I can't say that the waffling feelings of indecision have completely left, as I catch myself from time to time. But I feel better this year. I feel more patient with her progress - slow and steady has been our mantra for a long time. It just took me a few years to figure that out.

The very best ears to be behind.


Wednesday, July 17, 2019

July 2019: Percentage Days

Oh, now that's a fancy pony.
Phew, what a whirlwind June was. We started the month off with a bang and it seemed to only gain traction from there - cowboy challenge obstacles one weekend, back to back clinics the next, and long trail rides in between. I managed to keep my head firmly screwed on and not completely lose it, knowing that July was right around the corner with it's promise of less structure and fewer hectic weekends.

The one clinic I had planned on attending in July was pushed back to August, which kinda made me breathe a sigh of relief. Usually around mid-June I start to feel kinda suffocated with all the clinics, lessons, and various outings. Seeing wide-open weekends in July to do whatever the heck I wanted felt kinda nice. And it also pushed me to get my butt a bit in gear, as the only event I'd be interested in attending throughout the entire month was the Totem Saddle Club's monthly Percentage Days/ Clear Rounds.

I've spoken at length before about how difficult it is to ride in a real Dressage arena - we have a very large jumper-style ring and without the actual letters and geometrics in place, I kinda botch my figures and tend to have a difficult time maneuvering my way around the ring. Taking the opportunity to play around during Percentage Days would be one way to be more familiar and comfortable in that ring, as well as an opportunity to prep Annie more for the Dressage show in early August and the BVX at the end of August.

She was on FIRE this day.
Also, I have no idea when I became a non-glove wearing
rider... what the heck.
It's coming down to crunch time for entries, and I've been waffling and weaving between sticking to Training Level (bc that Dressage arena tends to bring out the most foul of tension-ridden demons) or to start reaching out to our First Level goal. I've had some pretty consistent rides that have screamed, "This horse is capable of First, so just do it." and I've also had a few spatterings of completely awful rides (in fact, we had one the day before Percent Days) where I sit there and think, "Maybe this horse will never stop cross-firing or canter properly?"

Had I based my entries off of the ride I had Friday night, I would have scratched both shows. It was pretty bad, and I'm sure a majority of it was my fault. Since our Derek clinic, I haven't done a ton of schooling, as Annie started to develop a cough/subsequent cold. It wasn't particularly bad, and I'm sure I spent more time babying her than I should have, but I still felt really bad about riding her while she was "sick". Pair this with taking some weekends off to visit the Boyfriend, another weekend camping, and organizing her to go out on pasture during the week, I haven't really done a ton. So, the pissy, opinionated mare I had to ride last Friday was kinda what I deserved.

Although, part of me is like, "You can canter properly when you've had time off, ya witch."

Because, the bareback hack and trail ride we did earlier in the week were absofuckinglutely fabulous.

So. Get your shit together, Annie.

Pictured: shit together.


Anyways.

Friday featured pretty much cantering circles forever and ever amen because she decided it would be easier to swap on me 15-billion fucking times. So I just sat there, still asking her to do the things, still asking for bend, asking her to move forward, etc. After what felt like an eternity, she relented and started to go soft. We went for a short walk break and went to rinse and repeat on the other side. Aaaaand she decided to swap. A lot. So, back to cantering circles forever and ever amen it was.

We finally got to a good place and because I felt particularly ornery with her poor life choices, we continued the ride to accomplish the items I had intended to. Maybe it seems mean, and maybe it seems like poor horsemanship, but it's time to grow up. She knows how to canter, she knows how to circle at the canter. Taking 25 minutes to stop fucking cross-firing is NOT fun for either of us, and unfortunately for her, I chose to simply continue my ride as scheduled once she decided to comply.

Maybe don't make stupid choices?

Moving on from the disaster that was Friday, I was unsure how playing around on Saturday would go. I didn't hold my hopes high and although I wanted so badly to stay home and not embarrass myself, I knew it would be a good opportunity, even if I just schooled in the ring and went home.

Just exuding confidence, I know.

When she rides like this, I have all the confidence in the world.
Saturday morning came and I rolled out of bed and headed straight to the barn to load Annie. I took a bit longer than intended, but to be honest, I'm never really sure about the Percentage Days time. It states on the site that it starts at 10am - so does the first test start at 10am or does the warm up ring open at 10am?

Regardless, it didn't really bother me much, as I knew ahead of time there was going to be quite a few people in attendance, so I'd have plenty of time to warm up. I didn't need to worry tho, because when I pulled in just before 10am, the other participants were still tacking up.

I tacked up right away and headed over to the warm up ring, happy to see that while there were a few people riding, it wasn't enough that we would have to warm up in the jump ring. Which meant I could actually warm up IN the dressage court. I don't think I've ever been able to warm up in there, which I felt was pretty important, because it helps bridge the gap between "this ring is ONLY for hard work" vs "here we also do other things".

And we did the things.
She felt good tho, although a bit behind the leg (maybe it had something to do with all the cantering the day before...). We had no botched leads, and she felt pretty amicable, but also a bit unresponsive to my forward cues. I wandered back to the trailer and grabbed some teeny spurs, which is weird because I haven't ridden Annie in spurs in probably a good year and a half while we battled our "leg = forward" issue last year. Regardless, for some reason I decided to slap them on and parked ourselves near the stands to watch a few tests first. As our time in the ring was approaching, we did a few trot loops so Annie could  waited for a few tests to be done before taking Annie for a trot around to wake her up and give her the opportunity to feel the spurs a bit.

We headed into the ring for our first test - I chose to do Training Level 3 to start - and I was immediately glad I had the spurs on. For some reason she likes to really suck back in that arena, and our final centerline movement is always botched in TL3 because she kinda pushes against my legs. This time, however, our "turn at E, turn at X, halt at G" went really well. Aside from an oblong-shaped canter circle, I managed to keep Annie pushed out on the circles and our figures were pretty spot on.

We had a few issues, but nothing major. She threw her brakes on randomly during a trot-walk transition and tried to halt, but I got my shit together and used the spurs as necessary to get my point across. I had felt initially unsure about using the spurs, as I haven't used them in about a year and I have had issues in the past with taking my spur OFF. My legs are so short that my legs naturally sit in an area where my spur is kinda... sitting there. However, this year in particular I've noticed that in my Dressage saddle, I have been able to let my stirrups down a few holes and that I no longer clamp my heel on as much as I used to. In fact, it was something Anthony commented on during our last clinic together (hooray)! We managed to get a 65.4% for the test, which was pretty decent given the few errors.



Finishing the TL3 test I felt pretty good about wandering into First Level territory, so long as I actually, yanno, rode the horse beneath me. We waited for a few more tests to go, reviewed FL1, and finally went off to ride our very first First Level test.

Heading into the test, I'm not sure why, but decided I'd head into the ring sitting vs posting. I think the idea I had behind it all was that sitting meant I would half halt and push more vs when I post, thus getting Annie more consistently on the aids to avoid any bobbles.

Unfortunately, while it was a good idea in theory, it didn't really pan out the way I had intended. Annie was more forward in this test, and I have a hard time actually sitting her bigger trot, so we kinda bobbled around like idiots for the first few movements. I gave up with sitting and went back to posting, which worked much nicer. I'm not really sure what I was thinking, but extra points for making it more difficult I guess.

The test went pretty smoothly from there, and it was just "decent". We lost points in some areas because we didn't really have any lengthening, our free walk was a bit tight vs stretchy, and some of our smaller figures were a bit botched since I haven't had to pilot anything smaller than a 20m circle before. Overall though, I was pretty pumped with the effort, since this test featured only small amounts of tension and I actually had a horse I could maneuver around. Admittedly, I rode FL1 very softly, just testing out the waters and keeping things light and breezy. We scored a 63.4%.





Regardless, I was pretty pumped to have not only one, but two successful Dressage trips in an arena that was the source of a lot of stress and frustration for the past two years. So I went for it and signed up for FL2, which would be our final test of the day.

This test went really well - there were bobbles, yes, but it flowed really nicely and aside from a canter break which occurred coming from K to do our trot at X. I asked her to pick her canter back up, and she picked up the wrong lead. Brought her back and she picked up the right one.

Our lengthens were kinda non-existent again, but Annie felt pretty tired. And I made a boo-boo in our 15m canter circles because my brain could not compute where to turn because turning at C is more difficult to figure out than turning 15m at one of the long-side letters. So, I made them a bit too big. We scored a 63.2%.


But.

The test felt good. There were pilot errors and some little issues (more to do with geometry than anything else), but that's exactly why we practiced these tests. More than anything, I was proud as heck of Annie and it was just one of those moments when you can feel all your hard work paying off. This whole Dressage process has been a long, daunting road, and eeking into First Level territory finally has felt really, really good.




Tuesday, July 9, 2019

A Midnight Summer's Eve

Favorite pair of purple ears
Forget #legalizeit, we're gonna #purplizeit
The past few weeks have been filled with a decent amount of horsey time, but also a few mini vacations: one to visit the Boyfriend while he's away for work, and a spontaneous camping trip with friends. I don't think Annie has minded one bit, and I'm starting to think less or more in some circumstances.

Following the Derek clinic, we headed out for a few long, somewhat technical trail rides. One of which was back at the Onion Lake ski-trails and I had a friend from out of town tag along (he drove Spud). The horses were more or less foot-perfect, but I was struggling to really enjoy myself in the absurd heat and the fact that Annie was rooting down every time a bug buzzed by her face. The annoyance with the bugs was fine, but it made my ribs verrry sore by the middle of the ride. I actually ended up getting off and walking part of the way, because I was exceptionally sore due to how much she was jerking her face around and carrying on because of the flies. (In her defense, they really were terrible tho.)

The bugs were so bad she shook off her fancy purple hat
four times before I gave up.
The ride was pretty good, although we didn't manage to get to the location we had planned. The map was a bit deceiving, as we followed signs that included the name of the look-out point we were hoping to get to, but apparently a very different (and weirdly named) trail takes you to the look-out point. I'm not sure who made the signs, but you'd think they'd keep them kind of... inclusive to the area they're headed to. But I guess, bad on us to not double-check.

Regardless tho, it was a good ride and the horses were able to get a few good trot and canter sets in. We logged just about 8km in just about 2 hours - Spud did really well at keeping up, but I could tell Annie was getting frustrated with all the going and stopping to wait for him (his poor little legs just don't hold a candle to a regular horse's walk gait)!

The horses got a well deserved day off following that ride, and then were saddled up again for a short little trail ride in the rural subdivision. And, oh my lord... Annie was Satan.

Her Satanism made it into my ride notes.
I'm not sure what the heck was her problem, but I ended up getting off twice and we had to have a few Come to Jesus meetings throughout the trail. I kind of have an idea of what was up her butt, but none of the residual circumstances were good enough excuses. I guess sometimes horses just have off days tho and bad rides happen.

I tried to keep #ZenNinja status but if I'm being completely honest, I was tired, sore, hot, and every time she tugged at the reins (attempting to shake bugs away again) it felt like a hot knife sliding through my ribcage. We tried a few things - putting her in front of Spud (she got pissed having to wait for him), behind Spud (she ignored my half-halts, went down to itch her leg while walking and cracked her skull in the back of Spud's cart), getting off and standing (THESE BUGS THO), staying on and standing (ANGRY), doing circles (haha, let me run you into these trees), etc. Nothing really worked and I honestly didn't have the strength or energy to duke it out with her. At the end of the ride, I had to get help putting her fly-sheet on because I couldn't lift my one arm high enough (not her fault, I was still recovering from my biking accident).

Not the above trail ride, but from our Onion Lake ride!
Unfortunately, the ride left a bad taste in my mouth and I realized that maybe I should take some time to recover before attempting to ride again. The injury to my ribs was just becoming irritated every single time I rode and it made the entire process exceptionally unpleasant. So I gave Annie the weekend off and disappeared to visit the SO for the Canada Day long weekend.

Upon returning, life was pretty hectic until Thursday, so I started implementing some longer grazing time for Annie in the one paddock behind the BO's house. I've had her out there grazing before, but the 40 minute short duration grazes 4x a week wasn't really doing much, and since I had asked the BO to leave the area unmowed, I needed to start leaving her out there to do a bit more damage.

My only concern was that the area is "temp fenced", meaning that the front half is board/no climb, but the remainder of the perimeter is straight wire and electrical that is not hooked up. The area has become so overgrown that Annie would have to kind of bushwack into the trees to even get close to the straight wire, but regardless, it is still there.

A fun little map.
Orange is where the horses are mostly 24/7,
the red area is where Annie gets turned out alone, and the blue area
is where she grazes under immediate supervision. The area where she grazed
all week was the red area.
I have put her back there before, and had taken steps to slowly introduce her to the area, where the "perimeter" is, and have done some work on leaving her there to graze while I do chores. Sometimes, she is content to chow on the grass... and other times she will throw a complete and utter meltdown if I disappeared from eyesight or earshot.  I love my horse, but not enough to sit there and watch her graze for four hours.

So, I was kind of nervous about leaving her to her own devices. Although Spud shares the fenceline with her,  the entire time she is in this area, he screams bloody murder for her. She is pretty good and doesn't call much, but can get worked up, and if I'm not there to monitor her, how can I be 100% sure she is being safe?

I had mulled it over for a few weeks - what is the best, and safest way I can get this accomplished? I reached out to the BO after an unsuccessful attempt to leave her in the back paddock alone for a few hours (she didn't escape, but it certainly wasn't a relaxing time for either of us), and asked if they would mind helping out since they are home throughout the day.

No relevant photos, but enjoy all the purple.
They graciously agreed (seriously, they are so awesome!), so I sent them a text message on my lunch hour that I had left Annie in the back with water and to call me if there were any problems. I went home and had a quick lunch and mowed the backyard before returning inside to see I had missed a call from the BO.

My heart sunk.

I listened to the voicemail, sighing heavily when the BO stated Annie was "galloping around frantically" and she wasn't sure if I wanted to come back out and put her back. I called back and spoke to her husband, and after a few key questions (Was she trying to jump the gate? No. Was she running into the fencing? No. Was she being dangerous? No.) we decided to leave her be and let her have her little tantrum.

I called every hour on the hour, and as each minute passed, Annie became less and less anxious. She would canter from side to side, stopping occasionally to grab a mouthful of grass, before becoming enamored with the prospect of grazing. She'd graze a bit, and then remember she was still mad, so she'd trot up to the fence to look for me, and then back again.

By the time I arrived three hours later, she was dry, quiet, and happily grazing in the far corner of the paddock. Every single day that week, she was put out to graze for 4-5 hours in either the morning or afternoon (whichever suited the BO's schedule the best) and each time, she progressed further into enjoying her time out there, which also translated to a much more patient and quieter being undersaddle AND in the cross-ties. Not that she is a wiggle worm, but I've found since having to "deal" with being (mostly) alone and being somewhere she doesn't realllly want to be, she kinda just goes, "Well... this is my life now." and cocks a leg almost immediately.

And what a beautiful life it is!

I did manage to pop into the saddle last Thursday before we headed camping for the weekend with friends, and honestly, it was probably my best ride ever on Annie. We had headed to the ring for our first schooling ride in the Derek Huget clinic, with the intent to keep things light and airy since it had been about 11 days since we had previously schooled. We had taken a bit of a break from the ring because we had back to back clinics during the last two weekends of July, and I felt both of us deserved a bit of a break - hence all the trail riding!

Things started off slow - lots of stretchy trot before bringing her up and doing some changes of direction, a few lengthens, and leg yields. I quickly popped her into the canter and we had some beautiful canter work and some really nice down transitions, which were quite lovely to ride. From there we worked on some walking shoulder in and moved into some trotting shoulder in and ended up doing shoulder in down the long sides and canter down the short side of the arena. Since we did it on the long side, I was able to ask, straighten out, and then ask again. And finally, we finished up with some canter diagonals and after a particularly beautiful shoulder-in right, I halted, celebrated, and hopped off. Good girl, Annie!

Heading to  the ring...
I led Annie around the ring a few laps, patting her and telling her what a good girl she was before I re-haltered Spud and headed back home. I was pleasantly surprised and exceptionally happy with her performance - if she rides like THAT for the rest of the year, First Level is looking like it's more than attainable.

Now that I'm finally feeling better too, I've scheduled us in for a fun Percentage Days outing this weekend to get ourselves out there and practicing these tests, especially in an arena Annie hates. And then we have the rest of July open for pretty much whatever we want before out first Dressage Show the first weekend of August. We only have three shows this year, and although I want to make sure we do our best, I'm not going to go crazy and school 4x a week and burn ourselves out like we have done in years previous.

Riding young horses is all about incorporating balance - and I intend to keep it that way!

...heading home from the ring
Summer storms, hey how are ya?

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Derek Huget Clinic: Day 2

I headed out a bit earlier than I would have on Day 2, eager anxious to get to Barn C and see how Annie had fared. I had a few eyes checking her after I had left, but with the barn being on Summer board, there is no structured barn help there at first light. With a few lessons going on ahead of mine, I knew if something was terribly wrong, I would have gotten a phone call, but still, it's nice to go and see for yourself. 

When I pulled up, Annie was standing in the middle of the in/out paddock with a hind leg cocked, casually observing her surroundings without a care. I was happy to see this, but was slightly less enthused to observe that Annie had picked around her hay and didn't really eat as much as I had hoped. She did, however, complete her mash.

Because it was raining slightly and Annie's rainsheet was still at a friend's house from a previous clinic (the May Trainer K camp), I decided to bring her in and stick her in a stall so she could dry off a bit and stay dry. 

Pushing that trot forward to loosen the back.
The canter was accidental, but she tried hard!
She was pretty content in the stall, but was a bit more "uppity" in it than the day previous. Nothing too crazy tho, and I tacked up easily and soon enough, I tossed her bridle on and wandered into the ring to warm up.

This lesson primarily focused on POWER. Derek mentioned to not confuse power with going fast - power is forward energy but is containable, controllable, and the limbs are more extended vs quick steps. The idea of using power in this lesson was to unlock her back - asking her to stretch her limbs and move out would in turn, prevent her back from locking up. As I eluded to in the previous clinic post, Annie likes to falter when the aids go on which means her back drops, her head comes up, and her footfalls slow. It isn't like I put my leg on and she helicopters herself into the air, but it's a very small movement nonetheless. 

Just before we get to M, you can see she falters very slightly.


The lesson was physically tough on both of us - continuously pushing Annie forward past our working trot and encouraging her to still stretch into the contact and drop her back. There were some great moments where I could really feel the difference, and it took a lot of work to get to that particular point. Towards the end of the lesson, we really nailed it and I was excited that Derek had us working on simple changes and counter canter loops.

We talked a bit about the prospect of showing First Level at the end of August, as I was feeling less than inspired to branch out given our few poor schooling sessions prior to the Anthony clinic. Derek noted that if she continues on this positive trajectory, showing First is more than attainable. I appreciated the feedback from a clinician perspective, as sometimes I don't really know "when" to make that move up.

Fancy prancing Bannie.


Some key points from this lesson:
  • Drop the neck, and ask her to stretch down into the contact but not retracted.
  • POWER!
  • Inside leg on when making transitions, as she likes to bulge in.
  • She will lock herself and falter (like previously stated), so we need to show her that power = forward, not power = falter.
  • Inside leg will keep her straight through the half diagonal counter canters.
  • Don't be afraid to push her in the canter - you don't need speed, you need POWER.
  • Allow yourself to give a little and then go.

Some counter canter.
As per Derek, this was our best lesson yet with her (and I do agree!), she felt very grown up and like a real working pony, which was exciting. Sometimes all it takes is a few good lessons to pick your self-esteem back up, haha. In this lesson, she didn't take a wrong step. Good girl, Bannie!


Overall, a very successful overnight clinic! 

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Derek Huget Clinic: Day 1

So good at prepping for clinics.
Following the Anthony clinic the third weekend of June (I swear, one of these days I'll catch up on posts...), Annie had a few days off and then a nice light Dressage hack in the arena to slightly prepare ourselves for a second weekend full of lessons.

I remember Annie felt particularly good this day - loose, mobile, and free in the shoulders. We played around with some movements from First and Second Level tests - primarily shoulder in, leg yielding, extended trot, and a bit of collected trot. Our canter work was really fantastic and I remember ending the ride after 15 minutes or so, just because I was really happy with her and felt she was working quite decently for me.

I didn't completely finish tho, because I ended up tossing her bridle aside and took a little jaunt around the ring, taking advantage of the fact I had someone out there with a camera. Overall it went well - I can't say we have 100% steering tho, esp at the canter, haha. For the most part she was amicable and responsive to the aids despite the fact I squeaked as quiet as a church mouse on our first canter depart and we ended up flailing along at the trot.

Heading into the weekend I felt pretty confident about our lessons and was looking forward to addressing some Dressage with Derek once again.

Poor, abused, long-suffering Annie.
For this clinic, I decided to leave Annie overnight at Barn C despite the fact I was driving back home. There was more allure in leaving her at the Barn then to haul back and forth both days, plus it also helped me in my quest to overnight Annie at various places. So, when in Rome, right?

When I pulled up to Barn C tho, I realized I made a pretty fatal error in ensuring it would be a happy and low-stress overnight stay. With Summer being fully underway, the residents of Barn C are no longer in the top field - they have all been relocated to the lower field to graze for the summer. Which, is great, but it also means there are no horses in the area of the overnight paddocks. In fact, there were precisely zero horses around where Annie would be, and none within seeing distance either. Of course, this was the first and only time I had left Spud at home instead of bringing him. Sigh.

I debated on just hauling home, but Show Buddy offered bringing one of her mares up from the pasture to hang out in the paddock next to Annie if need be, so I accepted the offer and decided to just see how it went. It sounds absolutely silly, but I felt bad about Annie being on her own, and while she has never been the one to completely lose her mind, I worry about her hurting herself or something trying to escape.

Anyways.

I tacked up at the trailer and toodled into the barn to see if we were on time or not. Annie pivoted around at the trailer a bit, but nothing too crazy, and settled in to eat her hay I had hung up in the net. Turned out, Derek was about 15-20 minutes behind, as a young rider's mount came up lame and they had to do a tack-swap on her mom's mare. I sat and chatted a bit with one of the lady's there I know before wandering back out to the trailer to grab Annie and toss her into a stall while we continued to wait.

That tail tho.
Also, no lesson media from this day so you'll just have
to imagine.
She seemed content to munch on her hay in the deserted barn, and once our lesson time neared, I threw on her bridle and headed into the arena to warm up a bit. Our Derek lessons are quite difficult on both of us, so I didn't want to empty Annie's energy conserves on Day 1. She felt pretty good - a bit tight when I first got on, but I asked her to stretch down and supple her back and she complied pretty readily with the request.

I spoke with Derek a bit before we got to work, and stated that our canter has been a bit of a hot mess lately. I explained what I had been doing to address it, as well as what things I believe were compounding the issue. We discussed it a bit before he nodded and off we went.

We spent a few moments at the trot, asking her to lift and lower again, before heading into the canter. We must have done a billion canter transitions this day. I wish I was joking, but nope. So. Many. Canter. Transitions.

Some pointers from the lesson:


  • In the transition, she likes to hesitate and thus, will toss her haunches to the inside and make it more difficult for herself to canter straight. This is where Derek believes the wrong leads and cross-firing comes from. Inside leg on to straighten.
  • You want the muscles on either side of her neck to bulge. However, they are not supposed to be tight or contracted.
  • Encourage her to step out at the canter vs being tentative.
  • Leg needs to be on during transitions, as she likes to falter or slow down when gaits are being changed.


Overall, it was a really good, motivating, lesson. I admitted to Derek that I become complacent with our transitions, especially trot-canter. I certainly don't school them in rapid succession as we did in this particular lesson, and much to my surprise, Annie had one very small "no thanks" moment, but otherwise did the things and was happy to do so.

Enjoy a hiking photo of the doggos from that morning.
I finished up by cooling her out, untacking, and then hand-walking in the outdoor Dressage arena so she could go down for a little roll. Once she felt appropriately coated in shavings and mulch, I finished setting up the remainder of her pen and turned her out for the night.

Approximately 15 seconds into her isolation, she took one look at me, trotted furiously around the pen, rammed her chest into the gate a few times, squealed, and proceeded to buck unhappily down the one side of the fence. And then, went to her hay and started eating like nothing had happened.

Uhm. Ok.

So abused.
I shrugged, finished unhitching the trailer and waited around for another 30 minutes to ensure she was truly settled before driving back home for the evening.

Despite her initial... erm, outburst... and her lack of pony friends in the area, Show Buddy sent me a few videos showing Annie eating quietly by herself in the lean-to. The following morning I headed out a bit earlier than required, and found Annie with a leg cocked, snoozing in the morning sunshine.

Certainly not that anxious about her overnight stay. Mares.