ROAD TO BRONZE 2016, a year in review

Last year I was very busy getting the Loving our Lipz Journal Collaborative up & running, an online, interactive program for the United States Lipizzan Federation.  I forgot to include my training here, as well.  I will update all of last year in the next two blog posts with my training log posted here and the in-depth journal entries posted next.  We learned immensely moving from first to second level, and even more showing at second level.  I was thrilled to earn one of my qualifying 2nd level scores.  My plan is to show on Labor Day weekend 2017 for my second qualifying score at 2nd level, then move to 3rd.  Training in 2017 is moving along well, and the work we did last year is paying dividends in a stronger, more connected horse.

2016 Log entries, (most recent appear first)


12/4: redevelop horse/rider connection; improve fitness

11-14-16: Horse- improve rhythm by going more energetically forward with connection
Rider- refine rider position, timing & lightness of aids
comments about today’s training: I use a gentle snaffle and a fairly light touch on the rein. I learned that the lightness and subtlety of my hand can be dialed way down and still be effective. Even a light touch was too much in the hand for Monarch, interfering with his forward rhythm. Today Monarch taught me to always listen and to make sure communication is a dialog, never a monologue.

11/13/16: Learn the George Williams rhythm exercises.
comments about today’s training:  Monarch continues to be resistant in the warm up- particularly in rising trot. He improves after lateral work, and particularly when I work him sitting, rather than rising. I’m not sure how soon to go to sitting trot. By the end of our session, he is nice and forward and listening. It takes about 60 minutes. I think this could be caused by one of 2 things. Either he is burned out by all the hard arena work we did this summer, or he isn’t being worked every day, so his condition isn’t up to the level he was at this summer, creating a resistance to hard work. Once we get going, he seems to click into the work and become forward. I can’t be as consistent about training this fall as I was in the summer, so I will explore the Hillary Clayton fitness exercises for keeping him in better shape. This takes the emphasis off school figures. It may keep his mind fresher.

11/12/16: borrowed a 30″ cinch today, which will work with my horse & saddle.  Trail ride on Spring Creek Mesa.  Monarch was quite forward in the trot.  I think the saddle fits him well, and he is quite comfortable wearing it.  This will be a good trail and mountain saddle.
11/11/16:  Test western tack comments about today’s training:  cinch did not fit, so I hopped on bareback & worked on basics. He was very sticky in the beginning and very forward by the end. 🙂

11/8/16: lesson day with Tilly and Jasper- lead quietly with Jasper; teach steering to Tilly with clip reins to halter, seat work on longe line-first day riding in saddle, work to keep seat soft & following in trot

11-7-16: busy day/not much time to ride- just want to keep up momentum I began with yesterday’s dressage training. Play day- riding without tack- many turns, halts, laterals
comments about today’s training: at first he did not understand what I was asking. After repetitions and showing him with ropes tied to halter, he did get the idea, so I could steer and stop without using the ropes. I found that I needed to 1/2 halt very strongly with my seat before I could turn him smoothly. I love how we teach each other.

11-6-16: travel to new arena- test riding connection and fitness after having a few weeks off from training. Test balance of saddle after reflocking.  comments about today’s training: saddle was beautifully balanced. Monarch was attentive and giving me his all. We are both not fully fit, so dressage training in future will need to reflect need for rest periods and light work interspersed with heavier demands.

11/2/16: ground work with Tilly. Retrain, so Monarch is not explosive in canter. I want him to go quietly from walk to canter.
comments about today’s training: He was fairly good about the walk canter depart- with only 1 balk and no buck. Tilly only rode him in walk-trot.

10/27/16: Took Monarch to saddle shop in Grand Junction for 2 saddle fittings. He had to stand quietly in the parking lot of a busy area of Grand Junction- shop is located along a 4 lane divided highway.  comments about today’s training: He was nervous at first, but did settle down.  As suspected, the left side of saddle needed reflocking- it was bridging and slipping.  I want to explore how this affects his resistance.  Also, I ended up purchasing a lightweight western saddle fitted; now take him on more trail rides.  Again to keep him fit and interested, as we slowly return to dressage train in a more relaxed, less intense training schedule.

10/26/16: give longe lesson to Tilly; continue this goal; comments about today’s training: He was very resistant in the canter. Tilly was a star, very brave, staying on through his resistance- some rearing and bucks. I will need to work with him on calmly going forward on longe in canter.  I think he is getting burned out, as referenced in 10/19/16 log, though groundwork 10/17 & 10/11 was very good.  I need to explore this behavior.

10/19/16: build strength & stamina; review lateral work from yesterday; finish with a hack focusing on engagement in collected and medium trot.
comments about today’s training: outside the arena, one can really get good engagement. I think Monarch is a bit burned out from all the dressage training we did this past summer. I need to develop a training system that allows him to stay strong & supple, continue to advance and provide interesting and/or relaxing activities to prevent him from getting sour.

10/18/16: enjoy the fall; hack out
comments about today’s training: It was windy, & Monarch was spooky. After riding down the road, I realized it was not safe to hack out. I returned to the arena to reestablish trust & connection with lateral work. Shoulder-in always seems to solve my problems. That’s why Shoulder-In is the classic exercise- it can address a variety of issues. Today we worked on controlling the shoulders- this exercise came from Jane Savoie: ride from shoulder-in to tranvers, keeping the bend and line of travel, just changing the position of the shoulders. I was amazed at how well this exercise worked. I feared that I would not be able to hold the line of travel and bend when I changed position of shoulders.

10/17/16: groundwork to reestablish trust & connection

10/15/16: Trail Ride- Mesa Rim Trail, Grand Mesa  comments about today’s training; : Amazing ride, Monarch was super. Went with 2 other riders and their seasoned horses. When we got to the edge we could see literally more than a 100 miles!


0/11/60: build stamina through longe: w-t-c

10/10/16: Review lessons of clinic- moving the feet when Monarch becomes dominant and resistant

10/8/16: Trailer to a busy barn to train. Load last into a 3 horse slant. Deal with commotion of busy barn, many horses in tack area and arena
comments about today’s training: much better work ethic today. Spent a long time in the walk getting both of us loose

10/7/16: review 2nd level engagement & quality of movements before clinic
comments about today’s training: Monarch was resistant, and I didn’t have enough time to work out submission to get good quality. Never move ahead until the basics are established, no matter how long it takes.

9/16/16: improve travers for 2nd level tests
horse- position, bend, engagement
rider- position, weight
trail ride post schooling

9/14/16: bareback dressage- rider position & balance

9/12/16: Return to work on 2nd level- refining quality of gaits & improve shoulder-in through strengthening horse, attention to rider position, & use of uberstreichen to keep horse honestly on outside rein with good positioning.
comments about today’s training: yesterday’s bareback session paid off today with a super responsive horse & fabulous 1/2 halts- like downshifting a sportscar for increased power & engagement:)

9/11/16: renew horse/rider connection: create sensitivity in horse for prompt, honest acceptance of aids & in rider position for aids to “go through.”
comments about today’s training: I need to remember to train bareback weekly to keep me sensitive to my rider position and his response to the aids.

9/4: trail ride- walk, trot, canter

9/3/16: rider position, test shoulder in with ubersteichen; test horse impulsion- no spurs

Aug. 5-7, 2016: Dressage in the Rockies 3 Day Festival, USEF/USDF recognized show; showing 2nd level tests 1 & 2 each day, plus warm ups, grooming, walking on grounds, etc…
comments about today’s training:

We received our first qualifying score at 2nd level! I am now halfway toward earning my USDF Bronze Rider Medal. I ve learned so much and feel confident about earning the second score. I am out of time and money for this season. Will continue to pursue that second 2nd level score next year.  top row: trot work  bottom row: canter work

8/4/16: final schooling on the Colorado Horse Park grounds before 3 day recognized USEF/USDF horse show- 2nd level; setting into stall, walking around show grounds, bathing, braiding, etc…

8/3/16: last training with Deb, (my trainer), before leaving for Parker, CO to compete in Dressage in Rockies Festival- showing 2nd level

7/31/16: same as yesterday.  One more day to practice at home before we leave for Gunnison/Doyleville for final training.  We leave for the Colorado Horse Park on Thursday.

7/30/16: Practice 2nd level movements and improve quality by focusing on timing, balance, and precise aids.  comments about today’s training: Laterals need more consistency with impulsion and angle. Right lead counter canter is becoming more balanced. Half halt from medium to collected gaits is finally coming through. For Monarch, the key is to ask for flexion, then the half halt. This in turn allows Monarch to rebalance and come back to the collected gaits, making the half halt & transition easy and light. The simple change from canter to walk needs more balance. In the up transition, sometimes Monarch needs better focus. When I lightly shake the inside rein, it seems to both create inside flexion and get his attention. Then I can step down on my inside stirrup, slide my outside leg back, and ask for the canter with inside leg at the girth.

7/19-28: 7/19-21 practice 2nd-1 test with trainer before Autumn Hill show; 7/23-24 Autumn Hill 1 hour each day with warm up arena + test before a judge; 7/27-28 work with trainer to learn 2nd-2 test; ongoing goals until end of show season     comments about training: second level is a huge jump from first level- the degree of power and engagement makes the 1/2 halt a critical component in adjustability between & within the gaits. In my 2nd level debut, the first test lacked impulsion.  We were able to do all the movements, but lacked the quality required for 2nd level. In my second test, we had tons of impulsion, but my horse was not through enough to accept the 1/2 halts, so we had many mistakes- missed canter leads and transitions. Working at my trainer’s after the show, I was able to find the feel and create the longitudinal suppleness necessary to create the transitions within the gaits, particularly the transition from medium to collected canter. With this new-found adjustability, test riding is beginning to become fun, but still very physically & mentally demanding, particularly at my age and level of health with my back and knee issues.   It’s a steep learning curve for one who has never had the opportunity for advanced training or ridden a schoolmaster.  At age 64, it’s now or  NEVER!

7/17/16: horse- develop poll suppleness for engagement in shoulder in
rider- develop rider feel for small corrections and effectiveness

7/16/16: weekend clinic- work on 2nd level test 1 quality of movements, focus on canter

7/15/16: review work from Gunnison training: Horse- suppleness in poll/submission
Rider- timing, feel, effectiveness of aids

7/14:  suppleness thru poll, submission, willing & effective 1/2 halt, plus timing the small adjustments needed to ride the 2nd level movements

7/13:  suppleness thru poll, submission, willing & effective 1/2 halt

7/11/16: Practice 2nd-1; focus on preparation, 1/2 halts, directives: engagement, bend, transitions
comments about today’s training: He was sore on right hind- very noticeable in R canter, 1/2 steps, and rein back. Adjustment to goal- work on loosening through lateral work and rein back at walk & trot.  Will give him the day off tomorrow.  Then assess Wednesday night, when I go to my trainer’s to work.

7/10/16: Learn 2nd-#1 test patterns; practice movements & DIRECTIVES
comments about today’s training I am much better in creating the engagement in my horse that allows him to move with expression and power. This will improve with fine tuning my position and timing.

7/9/16: longe- connection & engagement

7/8/16 : improve collected canter thru more engagement, especially in counter canter
comments about today’s training: We had good success today on the left lead- usually his weaker side. I felt the half halt come through. As a result- his back came up and he was carrying me “like a princess.” What a fabulous feeling of both grace and effortlessness. On the right, he kept falling through the inside shoulder. It took a great deal of effort and focus to bring him up. I used a HUGE half halt, and then that lovely feeling of carrying power came back on the other side. I suspect I will be able to bring him up more quickly and with far less effort in the future. As Podhajski said, “my horses, my teachers.” I am learning so much!

7/6/16:  Develop engagement for collection in trot and canter by
~Rider position & effective aids
~Horse becoming sensitive & prompt responding to aids
comments about today’s training: Strength is coming. Monarch is better able to hold the counter counter and stay in collection; he is teaching me to be a more effective rider.

7/4/16: rider position & effectiveness of aids
horse- focus on aids; develop engagement & strength in canter work

7/3/16: engagement & trail ride
comments about today’s training: I’m teaching a young girl to ride. We took a trail ride after I schooled Monarch for about 30 mins. As she rode behind me, I found I could explain the concepts we have been working on- the swing in the walk, keeping even rhythm, timing, when to sashay & when to follow the horse’s movement, etc. by having her feel what my hips were doing, and by pointing out how the horse feels when I do certain things.

7/2/16: Monarch will give longe lesson to young student rider- he must be obedient, calm, safe, and move with engagement.

6/30/16: improve collected true & counter canters

6/28/16 improve collected movements- strength and stamina

6/26/16:  quality in 2nd level movements- collected canter, counter canter, sh-in, travers

6/22-23/16  Work with Deb in Gunnison- test quality of 2nd level movements & make improvements where needed
comments about today’s training: Monarch drops his shoulder through his chest which blocks engagement. Strategies: 1/2 steps; counter-flextion for no more than 3 strides, then true flexion; strong 1/2 halts to balance and free the front end; 1/2 halt with inside leg to outside rein to reestablish the outside rein contact. NEVER POWER THROUGH A MOVEMENT- if it doesn’t happen from the first aid, ALWAYS go back and prepare him, so he can move with balance and power. The horse powers/the rider prepares.

6/20/16   horse- stamina in collected & counter canter
rider- position & effectiveness of aids  comments about today’s training: worked the figure 8- 10m collected canter/20m counter canter; could not hold counter canter- will make this easier by working with shallow serpentine loops until he holds the counter canter in a 20m serpentine loop. Then will work the serpentine down to C and back up to A.
It turned very hot this week. I need to be able to get up earlier and ride by 8 AM. I am not very strong in the morning. I am getting up 15-30 mins earlier each day, and getting on 30 mins earlier each day.

6/19/16  horse- strength & obedience in collected canter
rider- confidence and clarity in collected canter; timing & position in walk/collected canter depart; position & timing turn on haunches  comments about today’s training: quick tap with whip in shortened walk just before canter depart creates uphill animation and energy in the collected canter

6/18/16  lunge- horse fitness; ride bareback- rider aids and position

6/17/16  practice and review work from Deb; get stronger & build on this work

5/25-26 Ride 2 lessons in Deb Hindi clinic- build on what we have been working on- 2nd level movements, rider seat & position, develop deeper engagement

5/21  Test rider balance and position- practice all movements from Deb sessions and reproduce the feel and quality at home on our own

5/20 practice all movements from Deb sessions and reproduce the feel and quality at home on our own

5-18/19-16  Travel to Gunnison to work with my trainer, Deborah Hindi.  She has had my horse all week.  After Thursday’s lesson, I will take him home.  comments about training:

This week has been amazing-
  1.  Deborah riding my horse for a week while I was on the Front Range.
  2. Having 2 working sessions with my physical therapist
  3. Training for 2 amazing days with Deb.

Here’re the highlights:

Deb reported that when she got on him, there were no holes!  (As she trains and competes in Wellington, Fla all winter, we don’t see her until the following May.)   She said I had done a really good job bringing him back to work after the winter.  She worked all the 2nd level movements.  He worked well, was forward, balanced, and on the aids.  Monarch  is very similar to her stallion; they both share the problem of dropping their shoulders in travers.  She had really good success with introducing her horse to the double, and we played with a modified draw/curb rein.  When I rode, we first refined my aids in shoulder-in/haunches in, then created a hypersensitivity to my seat in shoulder-in, travers, & simple bending circles, then on to creating clear transitions in collected to medium trot.  (No aids except my seat- it felt fabulous to have a horse so tuned into my seat and so responsive.) Building on that,  he gave me the most amazing 1/2 steps in the same exercise- 10 M circle shoulder-in, travers, & bending circle.   Later we worked the collected canter in the 10 & 20 M circle from the collected walk.  The depart was huge!!  I could feel what the pirouette will become.   It was really good work.   He is somewhat weak in right hind, so the 10 M left canter circle in shoulder fore in preparation for the pirouette was hard to hold.  Deb was so pleased with my PT work.  (Me too- it gave me such confidence.)  I now have a left leg, and I can place it in any position I need to create the movement I need.  This past week has been such a gift!!

5/10/16  RIDER: develop strong awareness of rider position through continuously checking in on seat, legs, ankles  HORSE: improve the quality of impulsion, 4th level of the training scale in all 3 gaits.  Use mantra ,”sit like a princess; move like a king” for the two of us.  If things fall apart, don’t push; rebalance and start again.

5/7 & 9/16   improve collection through 10 m circles and counter canter

5/3/16  Hillwork to continue building strength and stamina for my horse & to improve 2nd level canter work. Canter and trot uphill; engage hind end to walk downhill.  comments about today’s training: Getting out of the arena resulted in a really forward horse.  Now I can build on yesterday’s goal- use rider position to improve canter; I will focus my next work on 2nd level canter movements- serpentine with the simple change and counter canter in bending lines and along the track.  Instead of combining the canter movements, as in a 2nd level test, I will work on separate movements, and combine the canter work in future schooling.

4/30/16  Continue to build strength &
stamina,- horse; continue to improve rider position- work in canter  & counter canter today

4/28/16  suppleness & connection, comments about today’s training: original goal was to work the canter serpentine. He was quite spooky, so knowing you ride the horse you have that day, I made a quick adjustment. I used Janet Foy’s “spooky horse” techniques, especially bending and flexing away from the problem, while “keeping the line of travel scared.”

4/26  Horse is honestly forward from the leg; (continue, build on this goal- comments: He was so behind the leg and humpy, I almost gave up.  By the end of the lesson, I had a lovely, forward horse in all gaits.  I am glad I did not give up.)

4/25 increase stamina- cavalletti

4/24/16  increase stamina- horse & rider

4/22/16  obediently forward in connection; rider confidence

4/17/16 horse- connection, obedience; rider- position; both- stamina

4/13/16  horse- obedience & suppling;  rider- consistency  (Same plan as yesterday, except not riding bareback.  About 1 minute into the warm up yesterday, Monarch did a huge spook- leapt about 10’ sideways.  He felt all bunched up like he would buck or bolt, but he came right back to me.  I was amazed at how balanced I was sitting- stayed in the center of his back through the sideways leap.  I also stayed fairly calm, but today I put on a saddle and really worked on suppling at the walk with lots of laterals.  At the end, we ended with some nice 1/2 pass.  I will try walk-trot tomorrow.  It’s so weird that I was so nice & calm yesterday, but felt so cautious today.  Well we ended on a good note and needn’t remediate tomorrow.  Upward and onward…….)

4/12/16  BAREBACK ride- horse- obedience & suppling;  rider- consistency

4/11/16  Reestablish obedience and connection

4/6/16     Rider- test position, maintain balanced alignment;   Horse- positive response to “go” aids

3/19/16   attend Winter Wake-Up clinic

3/17/16   Monarch- after a week off, reestablish obedience and forward desire.
Me- using my new posture from P/T, ride with left leg forward (at girth) and heel out


Bron- I did your same plan yesterday, (quiet bareback ride to develop relaxation & suppleness.)  About 1 minute into the warm up, Monarch did this huge spook- leapt about 10’ sideways.  He felt all bunched up like he would buck or bolt, but he came right back to me.  I was amazed at how balanced I was sitting- stayed in the center of his back through the sideways leap.  I also stayed fairly calm, but today I put on a saddle and really worked on suppling at the walk with lots of laterals.  We ended with some nice 1/2 pass.  I will try walk & trot tomorrow.  It’s so weird that I was so nice & clam yesterday, but felt so cautious today.  Well ,we ended on a good note, and needn’t remediate tomorrow.  Upward and onward…….

Cheri- I think we have gone through some very similar situations, and that’s why we connect.  A lot of people really don’t understand, so it’s not always easy to talk to people about it either.  Unless you’ve gone through that whole fear cycle yourself, you don’t get it!
I’m glad you kept your seat so well (I’m sure an added advantage of the core strengthening you’ve been doing!) and also that Monarch came back to you so fast.  I have found myself that although I am extremely calm in an ‘event’, there is a price to pay afterwards, as I lose some confidence and sometimes have to take a few steps back over the next few days.  It has always seemed so illogical to me – especially if you have handled the ‘event’ well (as you did), then you would think you’d be even more pumped the next day, but it doesn’t seem to work that way.  Sigh.  I try to be patient with my cautious days, rather than forcing myself into a place where I’m not comfortable at that particular time.  Wishing you a lovely ride tomorrow! B
Thanks Bron- that’s where I’m at too- patience for the cautious days, because otherwise I get out of my comfort zone and way beyond my zone of proximity, (learning theory jargon for the zone where you are a bit uncomfortable & where you can push and learn.)  When I get into the anxiety zone, I just make up a bunch of “crap” reasons why I am too busy to go ride.  C
to Cheri: LOL, love the ‘anxiety zone’!!  Yes, been there and make the same crappy rationales about why it’s entirely impossible for me to ride that day!  :)B

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