Road to Bronze 2017 Apr 24-30, 2017

More crazy weather.  I woke up to 4″ of snow Saturday morning.  Between the thunder snow earlier in the week and the snowfall this weekend, it was no wonder the horses were spooky, the wind howled, and all my joints were achey.  Photos show the morning and then later in the afternoon.  I’ve been doing a lot of arena work with my footing.  With such a wet snowfall, I was able to harrow and get my footing in good shape.


4/30/17: test lateral work from last lesson in walk and trot
comments about today’s training: I rode bareback this evening. Monarch only needed a light touch from the spur to move laterally off my leg both on the circle and on the centerline in walk and trot.

Date: 4/27/17
Minutes of Training: 120

Goal: Lesson with Susan

Will you continue this goal or make a new goal for next training?: yes, we need to confirm a soft inside leg to an outside rein connection.  Monarch must yield his ribcage to make room for my inside leg.

comments about today’s training: We spent most of the lesson working on true bend, getting Monarch to move his rib cage with a check on the outside rein and touch with the  inside spur. When this happens he is “through.”   He engages- steps under himself himself, takes the weight and thrusts forward with the hind end. He is truly connected from the inside leg to the outside rein and able to flow softly forward or laterally. We need to continue this work until he willingly lets my inside leg fit inside a softly bent horse, instead of pushing my leg away with his ribcage. Over the course of the spring, we have first released the blocks in his neck, then his poll. Now we are working on his ribcage.  All this basic supple work will produce a very soft, balanced horse.  With “thoroughness,” he will be able to easily perform the movements required at 2nd level with all ingredients of the training scale.  Spending time on the basics will yield dividends later this summer.


More from last week: a few days after this wild day we had a thunder snow!   Lots of thunder and lightning that upset Monarch.  After one large crack of lightning, which sent Monarch bolting to the other end of the pasture, the ground went from green to white in 60 seconds!  


Road to Bronze 2017


Lots of work, travel, and bad weather:

I managed 2 days of training this past week.  My lessons with Susan are so amazing.  The canter is much improved, based on suppleness and balance which produced “throughness.”

4/6/17: lesson with Susan Sneider.  In my lessons, we haven’t been doing any figures or movements- we just work on beautiful circles: walk, trot, canter.  You would think this would be boring, but it is infinitely interesting, because she is helping me to unblock my horse and shape him.  The fine tuning is forcing me to be a much more sensitive rider, also much quicker, with lighter aids.  Even if we spend a whole year on the circles, I know that this will lead to setting him up for success in any movement.  Today the canter was just amazing, and it all came out of her system of suppling, aiding when he starts to lose balance/suppleness, and making those aids as small as possible, (but as much as needed.)  I am working the next 2 days at galleries out of town, so I can’t practice until  Sunday.  Judging from my experiences with Susan, I know I’m getting there….  Our horses don’t need training- we do!  My goal for Sunday: use what I am learning  from Susan “to increase the length of our perfect moments, which are coming together more consistently”………………quote from Chris Crowhurt

4/5/17:  practice for tomorrow’s lesson.  Rider- improve seat- sit on pockets; improve feel- look for the release  Horse- improve sensitivity/prompt response to aids

Road to Bronze 2017

2017 overarching goals: earn my second qualifying score at 2nd Level, then move on to training and showing at 3rd level

Monarch got the winter off while my husband and I traveled in Mexico.  We returned in Mid-February.  By the end of February, I began to carefully bring him back into training.  He is coming 17, so I did not want him to overdo and injure himself.  Also, he is temperamental and tricky in the spring.  I wanted to avoid any struggle.

Summary of late winter-early spring training log: (most recent entries appear at the top) Most unmounted sessions were roughly 1-2 hours with a good part of that work at the walk, grooming, liberty, etc.  I did not push him.  This playful, slow work suited him, as he was much easier to bring back into work this year.

3/21: forward and balanced today:)

3/20:  short window to train- refine rider aids & trot out of supple circle- horse improved today, but still not honestly forward

3/17: create energy & forward horse: supple circles & laterals.  Horse very behind the leg today.  Wind was howling, laundry flapping; could not use whole arena to get him forward.  (Susan says that spooking is a lack of outside rein connection, so supple circles must not have been correct.)  Tomorrow will work on better lightness and sensitivity in supple circles at walk only; use whole arena to refresh energy, and use Jane Savoie’s strategies for a forward horse- (never leave a correction with question- ALWAYS RETEST WITH A LIGHT AID.)

3/17: practice rider sensitivity- release of aids: use long side to refresh “go” energy;  Give 3 preparatory  1/2 halts for down transition, on third 1/2 halt-transition down, and immediately release aids without dropping horse.  Horse should remain balanced and forward- neither dribbling into new gait nor halting.  NOTES FROM TRAINING:  horse is not as connected and forward as previous week.  Is he tired or sore from all the new work?  Are my aids effective?  Am I holding too much/do I need to be softer, lighter, more sensitive to the feel the horse is giving me?  NEXT TIME- focus on prompt forward aids, then soften- don’t nag.  ignore his “hoppy” loss of rhythm & behind the leg in trot; go across diagonal to refresh; connect with supple circle & work laterals.  Don’t do supple 6M supple circle in trot- must be at least 10 M.

3/16: first day training at home; Monarch was boarded all winter at a busy barn with lots of horses and activity.  How will he respond to being back home where all is quiet?  Goal: practice supple circle from lesson 3/9; improve connection from inside leg to outside rein.  Monarch is honestly hot of my leg without a whip- even in canter!

3/14&15/17: practice suppling circle from lesson last week.  This work improved all 3 gaits.  Monarch is honestly connected, loose in his body, and much better balanced.  Trot work was powerful and canter work was lovely, fluid, and light.  This is the first time I have been able to work in a relaxed manner in canter without holding a whip.

3/9/17: first day training with Susan Schneider; back to basics to develop honest outside rein connection through suppling circle.  Notes:

Get horse honestly connected from inside leg to outside rein. When they connect, asymmetries disappear & balance is established. Allows horse to work from hind end- motor.
Begin on supple circle- about 6M volte, marching forward. Take good feel on outside rein. In rhythm with walk, touch horse lightly with inside spur (on/off/on/off…). If horse needs help with the bend, use inside rein in same rhythm as spur- (take/release/take/release). As soon as the horse can hold circle on outside rein, stop inside rein aid. Lighten outside rein aid as horse releases into the bend.  Change direction often. Spur- bring heel back & up& immediately return to neutral leg position.

3/8/17: Clinic prep: round pen-3 C’s; arena- ride bareback laterals and bending to develop suppleness; winter grooming

3/7/17: Round pen 3 C’s work; Ride in arena at walk to develop rhythm, balance,, suppleness.  Mounted work- difficult to get him to bend and accept outside rein.  Lovely ground manners; calm mounted & round pen work.  Winter grooming.

3/5/17: 3 C’s; add suppling in-hand; (shoulder-in on circle with focus on outside rein connection)

3/2/17: continue to develop the 3 C’s: cardio, core, connection through exercises at walk, trot, canter in sets of 3 using round pen without longe line.  Instead Monarch has to take his cues from my body language and verbal cues.

3/1/17:play with liberty: fun day for both of us. He is learning and enjoying the work.

2/28: Core and cardio development- lungeing with side reins and transitions; connection through liberty work
comments about today’s training: He is making big improvements since last week when we began this work. Will be riding soon

2/21/17: bring Monarch back to fitness though liberty and groundwork.
comments about today’s training: He continues to get stronger. He is better about understanding & following my hand cues in the liberty work, though changing directions can get disorganized. Side reins improved his engagement and balance. Added more canter circles to the workout. He seems to be regaining his wind.

2/20/27: Continue with liberty groundwork to increase connection and aerobic fitness; add canter circles   comments about today’s training: work well done today; he is getting stronger. Canter departs are unbalanced- bring side reins tomorrow to begin core fitness to workout

2/19/17: Conditioning- work in the big 40 meter round pen
comments about today’s training: continued with liberty; walk, trot, canter….. He was much more focused today. Canter needed more energy and conditioning. Tomorrow, we will do more transitions. I will use side reins to help him use his back.  For the past 2 days, I have begun stretching, yoga, and pilates.  I tailor a workout for my needs based on Beth Glosten’s riders’ exercise video and exercises from my P/T sessions last year with Nancy Hackett Harrison of Denver.

2/18/17: Bring Monarch back into condition after 2 months off.
comments about today’s training: I thought I would long line today, but Monarch was too fresh to work in lines. We left the arena, went to the round pen, and I tried lungeing. Because he couldn’t relax, I took off all his tack and we focused on developing a connection through liberty work.

Road to Bronze Sept. 30, 2015

As second level riders, we know that the key to the canter to walk transition is in collection.  Yet knowing the theory is quite different from feeling and communicating the movement with quality.  When one focuses on performing the movements, the quality suffers from the “git ‘er done” mindset.  This is particularly true when the rider and horse are learning, (moving up the levels), together.  The horse actually “knows” how to perform all the movements in dressage.  However, when they are learning together, the horse is building strength to carry his rider while interpreting her aids.  For Monarch and I, we had two ways to do the canter to walk transition, and both lacked quality.  If the down transition was forward, it lacked precision and balance with dribbly trot steps between the canter and walk. If the down transition was forced, it lacked forward fluidity, resulting in an abrupt “semi-walk-almost halt” from the canter.
photo 2

By focusing on quality and feel, (and waiting for the moment of quality before asking for the transition), the movement can become a by-product of  quality and feel.

During the last clinic, we had to stop my lesson because Monarch became very sore in his hocks.  He is now 15, the intensity of training this past summer, and the increasing demand of shifting our weight to his hind end manifested itself during that lesson.  He had three weeks off while I ordered and began the loading doses for polysulfated glycosaminoglycan.  I brought him back slowly.  First we had a couple of longeing sessions and a long lining session, each time working up to collected canter on the 10 meter circle, with periodic checks to ensure his hocks were not building heat.  Yesterday, I rode Monarch, developing quality trot work, working up to shoulder-in and travers.  With increased collection from the shoulder-in and tranvers, Monarch was able to produce some good collected canter.

Today we built upon that work.  I asked Monarch to sustain his collected canter in a 15 meter circle.  Knowing forward had to be part of the equation in the down transition, I worked toward balancing him with half halts before asking him for walk.  The first attempt resulted in a few trot steps, but they felt balanced and forward as the steps progressed into walk.  On the second attempt, I was able to continue to increase collection in the canter.  I could feel Monarch becoming more and more round, growing “bigger” in front, as collection increased.  I also felt him stepping more deeply under himself and becoming extremely light in the forehand and the bridle.  I knew at that moment that the canter to walk transition would come through.  I asked, and he was brilliant! Those are the the moments when learning occurs: both you and your horse are on the same wave length with two way communication flowing through feel.  Throughout building quality, Monarch and I were feeling and communicating.  Moving through the canter into a balanced forward walk felt sublime.  Feeling my pleasure, Monarch immediately knew he had performed well.  (He began to nicker.)

IMG_0983Rather than drill the movement, I hopped off.  We had trained in a focused manner for forty minutes.  It was enough.  I lavished him with praise and some sugar.  Then I turned him out, so he could bask in his moment of glory and enlightenment.  Tomorrow when we return to the movement, he will remember today’s experience.  We will be able to practice longer to develop strength, synchronicity, and balance.  Through gratitude and tact, we can move up the levels.



Road to Bronze: July 6, 2015

This past weekend was so much fun.

FRIDAY NIGHT: 7/3/15    Monarch & I had company- our dear friends, Renee and Sonny, (15 yr old Morgan gelding) came over to play.  As we were tacking, it began to sprinkle- a welcome relief from the heat we’d been experiencing.  Ten minutes later, ominous rumblings changed to outright danger, as the sky was split by a close lightning strike.  We dismounted and waited it out in the barn.  Twenty minutes later we were back in the saddle.  After our warm up, we began to play with tandem movements.  Before we knew it, we had designed a pas de deux.  The coup de resistance was concentric circles going in opposite directions..  The inside horse had to collect while to outside horse needed to lengthen, so as we passed our 1/4 circle markers at noon, 3:00, 6:00, and 9:00, we were passing at the exact moment.  The horses became very adjustable and sensitive, as we alternated between the inner and outer circles.

SATURDAY:  7/4/15  Renee returned, and it felt like a shopping trip.  Renee is saddle shopping, so we tried on each of her trial saddles, as well as my Neidersuss.  Riding three saddles in the course of 90 minutes gave me insight into how design and fit influence both my balance/position and my horse’s balance, comfort, and freedom.   Renee’s Albion was my top choice for both my horse’s freedom of gaits and my balance, with my Neidersuss coming in a close second.  Of course our geldings acted like typical males being dragged along for a girlfriends’ shopping trip.  They gave us “the look,” as if to ask, “Aren’t we done yet?”  If they could, they would have said, “we’ll meet you later; we’re going for a beer….”

SUNDAY: 7/5/15  I’ve been experiencing health problems, but knew I needed to get out and train- no matter what.  My family leaves for a reunion on July 8th, so I need to maximize the time I have before I leave.  On Sunday, I learned my two first level tests that I will ride for my bronze scores.  I am using The Digital Horse, to learn my tests.  I watched the animations to learn the geometry and printed the test movement diagrams to learn each actual test.  On Sunday, I brought the diagrams to the arena, and tacked them to the wall, (near V.)  Reading the diagrams, walking the patterns, and mentally rehearsing each half halt, each deep bend, and each engagement step gave us the edge for learning the patterns.  The Digital Horse PDF patterns not only show each movements, but also code the coefficient movements, as well as the transitions and where to perform the half halts.  Unfortunately, I felt too ill on Sunday to actually ride the tests in the actual gaits.

training Sept 2014

training Sept 2014

DATE:  July 6, 2015  Monday
GOAL:  ride both my tests, (First Level Test 1 & 2) for my initial scores.
METHODS:  Without looking at the diagrams, ride the test patterns at the walk stating aloud where each half halt, each engagement aid, each bend, each transition, each coefficient comes in the test.  Use this memorization as the beginning of the warm up.  Finish the warm up with suppling and counter suppling at the walk, then rhythm and engagement at the trot and canter.

Ride the tests.  Find and school the holes.  Last week, Monarch was breaking at the canter after the 15 meter circles and across the diagonal before the transition at X on the left lead.

REFLECTION:  All the training last week and the play this weekend has created a forward and balanced horse.  Monarch never broke.  He is a bit counter flexed in the 15 meter left canter circle, which is remedied through a suppling rein and an engaging inside leg.  Practicing the movements in the warm up at the walk and mentally rehearsing the half halts, bends, and transitions sharpened my mind for being a supportive partner for my horse. 
NEXT STEPS:  School the 15 meter circles with inside bend and flexion.  Strive to improve the geometry.  (As with many adult amateurs, I don’t have a regulation arena.  Tomorrow, I can make measurements with a string radius and mark my sand for 15 meter circles, so I can check the size and bend of the canter circles I am riding.)

Structure Your Schooling Session

The following are study guide notes for Solo Schooling by Wendy Jago.  For non-equestrian subscribers, be creative as you read these coaching notes about how to structure the schooling session.  Find ways to relate these ideas to your non-riding goals.  Substitute the horse for a coworker, family member, teammate, or your passion, sport, advocation, etc.


book study

Part 4: “Coaching in Action” Chapter 12: “Structuring the Work Session”

P 181- 183  CHAPTER INTRO: Be aware of focus when riding to avoid disappointment or a sense of failure.  Riding without focus won’t provide a sense of fulfillment.  Using a narrow focus, (such a focusing on perfection) produces a “trying” state and a success/failure frame.  Over-focus, (from feeling rushed), prevents the horse and rider from tuning into each other.  Use these guidelines to structure a schooling and/or coaching session:

  • work with an articulated agenda, but stay open to unexpected opportunities to serve your larger goals.
  • stay focused on the process, (rather than details of what happened during the schooling session).  Focus on the process means defining how something happened, what contributed to it happening, and what problems of action/reaction were at work.
  • be willing to experiment and abandon experiments that aren’t working.
  • use warm-up to tune into the heart of concern; attend to what is observable, interesting, and relevant.  Mark your learning by determining your next steps, adding homework before the next session, when appropriate.

SOLO SCHOOLING FORMAT: Caveats-(p186-187)- Shape each sessions into an enjoyable, productive experience for you and your horse.  Use the format as a basis, but be open to making diversions.

P 181-182 FORMAT


  • tune in
  • free/unblock
  • frame


  • explore
  • resource
  • focus & forward action


  • unwind
  • celebrate
  • mark learning
  • think forward


p183-184  STAGE ONE: WARM UP the mind and body of you and your horse.  Never cut this stage short.  If you work more than one horse, remember each needs an adequate warm-up.

  • TUNING IN: develop rapport with the horse, while you are walking on a long rein.  Discover how your horse is feeling physically and mentally.  Build on rapport & trust developed during TUNING IN; extend with play, experimentation, and discovery to the heart of the lesson.
  • FREEING & UNBLOCKING: TUNING IN provides information to anything that blocks fluency, (tightness or distraction of horse or rider).  To release and unblock, work long and low, ride big shapes, change directions frequently, do suppling exercises, alternate rising/sitting trot, light/deep seat, play with weight & rein aids, leg yield on straight lines and on circles.
  • FRAMING: check your state, (feelings), to ensure a positive frame to produce a productive, rather than limiting session.  If your frame is negative, return to FREEING & UNBLOCKING.  Monitor opportunities your horse offers to improve something you or he finds difficult.

P 185-186  STAGE TWO: WORKOUT  This state is full of engagement leading to learning, consolidation, or achievement.  It doesn’t need to last long; cultivate stopping at the peak moment to carry positive feelings forward to the next session.

  • EXPLORING- the state of playful attentiveness, (give & receive); variations of the message yield different results- notice and reflect on feedback from your conversation.
  • RESOURCING- become aware of what is needed to resolve difficulties or to take you further. Note external resources, (ex- schooling patterns, work without stirrups, etc) and internal resources, (ex- strategies to a foster positive state, etc), and capability issues, (ex- need to schedule a lesson or get more information).
  • FOCUSING & FORWARD ACTION- the heart of playful learning; moments of intense focus when you refine something enough to feel you’ve made a difference, which will take you in the direction you want to go.


  • CELEBRATING- reward your horse immediately as soon as you receive a ‘yes’ feeling
  • UNWINDING- take time to cool muscles, unwind mentally by allowing focus to open
  • MARKING THE LEARNING- while you are cooling down; put the experience into a frame that is easily remembered and retrieved.  Remind yourself of key ideas a couple of times immediately after the schooling session.
  • THINKING FORWARD- as you put your horse back and take yourself home, ask yourself what comes next.  Finish with a curiosity frame for continued exploration and inquiry at many levels.

p 187- 192  THE WORK STRUCTURE IN ACTION- Read about a schooling session with Sean, a professional trainer and Harry, an Intermediate event horse.  Harry responds to pressure by rearing.  Sean uses coaching & nlp to engage and work Harry on the bit without force or pressure. Two successful strategies for Sean were using an exhale breath on down transitions and “spinning back” his inside shoulder in time with the canter stride.  “Spinning back” the shoulder is Charles de Kunffy’s strategy for engagement in the canter, which has the effect of enhancing the massaging effect of the inside seat bone on the horse’s corresponding long back muscle, which encourages the same side hind leg to engage and lift in the canter.  The rider can use this non-confrontational aid intermittently to rebalance and collect or for longer periods to promote and maintain engagement.

P 192- You can learn from even difficult or frustrating sessions.  Progress means shifts in your mind and your horse’s mind, just as much as “improvement” in your observable performance.


Good Questions and Thoughtful Listening

The following are study guide notes for Solo Schooling by Wendy Jago.  For non-equestrian subscribers, read these coaching/motivation notes with your non-riding goals in mind.  Substitute the horse for a coworker, family member, teammate, or your passion, sport, advocation, etc.

a partnership is good questions and thoughtful listening

a partnership is good questions and thoughtful listening,                      copyright C. Isgreen

book study

Part 4: “Coaching in Action” Chapter 11: “Coaching Yourself with Questions”

P 176  CHAPTER INTRO: Statements define and limit your response.  Open questions begin an internal search.

P 176-178 LEADING QUESTIONS: Don’t ask leading questions to which you know the answer.  ex: If the horse is falling into the circle because the rider’s weight is not centered, don’t ask, “Why did your horse fall in?”  In part 2, p44-45 the author advises us to avoid the question “why” because it leads to feelings of guilt and blame.  Instead ask “WHAT did you notice?” or “HOW can you help your horse to stay balanced on the circle?”  When coaching yourself, avoid WHY questions for the same reasons.  Form questions to:

  • sort through existing information
  • to seek information at the unconscious level
  • focus on specifics to indentify the key to what is/is not happening
  • to identify evidence of change or achiement

Questions take pressure off you and detail a problem into a prescription for improvement.  Begin questions with how, what, where, when, who; avoid why.  HOW is the best question.


  •  is the result of curiosity and questioning
  • reveals evidence, (internal & external), to inform how & what happens
  • moves you forward

P178  HOW is the best question to ask.

  • HOW models exemplars.
  • HOW pinpoints what to continue & what to improve.

P178  WHAT is another great coaching question.  Refine a WHAT question by asking:

  • what specifically tells me…….?
  • what next?
  • what else?

P179-180  QUESTIONING YOUR HORSE  Be tuned into your horse’s behavior.  You will learn what he knows, doesn’t know, and what he thinks you are asking.  If your horse gives the wrong answer, take the perspective of 3rd position, (outside yourself), to analyze your horse’s understanding.  Horses are incapable of lying.  Ask your horse:

  • how else can I explain?
  • what are the clearest signals I can give?
  • what range of signals do you understand?
  • what happens when I ask………..?
  • how do you let me know you find something difficult?  too difficult?  confusing?  easy?  fun?  scary?  etc

Besides behavior, pay attention to your horse’s facial expressions.  Refine your communication through processing your horse’s answers.

Good questioning and thoughtful listening will guide schooling, ensure relevance & purpose, and yield subtle & effective riding.