Road to Bronze 2017 Apr 17



Date: 4/20/27

Minutes of Training: 90

Horse: Monarch

Goal: lesson with Dr. Susan Schneider

Methods- be specific, give details: 1. warm up
a. walk: poll supples on 2nd track, then use small supple circle to engage inside hind
b. trot- develop swinging trot with poll as highest point and chest open so shoulders can step through; when horse goes above the bit- hold rein with set hand on wither just in front of the saddle while sending horse forward with inside leg/never pull back with rein; release immediately when horse gives. (This is like a long half halt, 3-5 seconds until horse regains balance and releases.) Post with swinging hips and loose legs- don’t drive horse with strong post and tight legs. When horse gets too quick, also use set hand with inside leg. Horse will rebalance and find a better rhythm; can also achieve by holding core and posting more slowly.
2. Teach horse to engage core by stepping through. Begin exercise in walk, then go to trot, then canter.
a. in the walk, working on a 20 m circle, supple as leg yield with inside leg/soft spur asking horse to step under and sideways. Keep the contact. Next, teach horse to step through with hind end to the bit. Shorten reins and lengthen arms. Whip will encourage horse to push from behind/engage motor. Whip: inside hand with pinky closed, thumb on top, rein lengthened and open for whip to touch croup. Whispering taps with whip in rhythm with walk. When horse stops, he is stuck; he needs to sort out how to step through to the bit. This is a new feel, and he is not sure how to move into the contact. Don’t drive horse when he is stuck; instead just keep riding quietly in rhythm, and he will figure out how to step “through”; stay on the 20 M circle.
b. trot- begin as in walk, (leg yield on circle to supple and activate inside hind.) Next a whip whispering to his croup in trot rhythm. Post and touch horse when rider sits. When circle is good, go large.
c. canter- when trot, supple and move into canter from 20 M circle. Continue to supple keeping neck soft, poll highest point, rhythm relaxed. Then engage inside hind in rhythm of canter- stride 1- very softly on croup. When circle is good, go large. Keep the rhythm regular and relaxed.

Reflection: This lesson mirrors part 2 of section 1 of Uta Graf, “Effortless Riding.” Very timely to have this lesson today; very helpful to practice my timing and softness of aids today.

After such a reactive beginning to the week, this lesson was a reminder of what a treasure my horse is. He works hard and wants to please. He enjoys the training as much as I do. I believe the emphasis on rhythm in this lesson, (along with suppling), helped to steady and reconnect Monarch to my leadership, after his electric and wild affect earlier this week. (I wore my full seat leather breeches today because I was not sure how much bucking I would have to ride. It turned out that he was solidly on my seat the whole lesson and did not offer even one buck!)

Next Steps: Take Monarch away from the sheep next door, so we can focus on these concepts can confirm the feeling of stepping through to the bit, (horse), and timing and lightness of aids, (rider).


4/18/17: Practice flexions for lesson on Thursday; light aids
comments about today’s training: another wild day. Monarch regressed back to 2 years old. Sheep came in to the ranch behind us, strong spring winds, birds building nest in barn, blackbirds in the chico brush. Monarch was very worked up when I went to tack him up, so I turned him loose in the A end of my arena, with a rope from V to P to contain him. Then I let him blow off steam because he was not going to be caught. It took an hour of sending him out before he let me approach him; I used the join up method, looking for licking as a sign that he would let me approach. I finally began to “free longe” him, asking him for transitions- walk-trot-canter- halt. All this was fine, as long as I didn’t try to approach him. After an hour, he finally let me touch him with a cookie. After talking to him, petting him, and many cookies, I attempted to snap on his lead. By then he was 80% calm. We spent the next 30 minutes practicing leading, as we did 15 years ago when he was a colt.



4/17/17: Practice the 4 types of aids in Beth Baumert’s Book: When Two Spines Align
1. Shaping/prepare
2. Listening
3. 1/2 halt/balance
4. Action
comments about today’s training: I had every intention of practicing some book study concepts, (Beth Baumert’s book is very aligned with our Uta Graf book study, and I will be riding with Beth in June), but that was not meant to be. Spring weather in Colorado most likely does affect a horse’s behavior.  I could tell Monarch was going to be spooky with the overcast light and strong winds.  Usually I ride through his behavior on days like today, and I focus on suppling and connecting him. Today (after reading some book study ideas), I wanted to test him. I thought I could supple him in-hand if he felt spooky or stiff, but he was totally resistant, so I got out a longe line and did ground work exclusively in the spooky part of the arena. It took the better part of an hour to get him reliably connected. During the first part of schooling- about the first 20 minutes- he charged approaching the scary spot almost every time. Then he had moments of focus when he moved calmly, which instantly fell apart and he would shy, rear, buck, or charge again. I was so thankful I did not get on today. He is so talented, powerful and fit, it could have been dangerous. I’ve never seen him have such histrionics before. I’m certain it has something to do with the atmosphere and the season. I hope to ride him tomorrow. With all the connecting work we did, he should be an angel. We ended the session with canter voltes and frequent transitions- walk/canter. He became quite light- I could lightly touch him on the croup with the longe whip and he would collect, then canter. By the end, I felt safe enough to trust him working at W-C transitions about 5 meters away from him. (In the beginning of our session I had to keep my distance because his spooks were huge, as well as being aware of which direction he was charging, because he sometimes headed into the circle towards me. He wasn’t charging me so much as getting away from a perceived danger. It did take vigilance, and I was happy when he let me safely work close to him at the end of the session. At that point I felt very connected, even though I was not on his back.)

photo 1

my talented horse, Monarch


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 2016 Journal Entries

The USLF Journal Collaborative is made up of 3 parts:

  • log entries, (see last post)  These briefly describe day-to-day training
  • journal entries, (this post)  These are in-depth entries that detail methods, results, and next steps in the horse/rider training.
  • interactive, collaborative conversations with other members  (To join, visit United States Lipizzan Federation)

2016 Journal Entries  

(from most recent appearing first)

Journal #11: 10/9/16

Minutes of Training: 90

Horse: Monarch

Goal: Final 2016 Deb Hindi Clinic

Methods- be specific, give details: Part 1- Monarch came out lazy, dominant, and resistant. After checking for pain and saddle fit, we suppled. After determining there was no physical reason for resistance, he still would not go forward . Training strategy: get control over all 4 feet. We did lots of lateral work in very fast succession at the walk: turn on 4hand; turn on haunch; rein back; change direction: turn on 4hand; turn on haunch; rein back; change direction, etc.  After these exercises, ask for forward trot; he still was not listening to seat (I was rising higher & quicker), he was ignoring leg, and he would buck against my taps with the whip.  We repeated the quick 4 foot walk work until finally, he would go forward in the trot and lengthen across diagonal through my seat aids, (rising higher & longer).

Part 2- Shoulder In & Travers on 20 M circle in trot- he wants to brace against the outside rein- solution take outside rein about 1″ from neck. When I removed the rein from the neck, he dropped the outside rein contact. Modified exercise from step 1- instead of doing full or 1/2 turns, stay on 20M circle in the trot and ask for 2 strides turn on forehand in one direction, then 2 strides turn on forehand in the other direction, (it is like a leg yield for 2 strides, then 2 strides back.) This seemed to reestablish leadership/me and submission/him.
Part 3- turn on haunch from medium walk, shorten and quicken steps. When he became resistant, we briefly went back to Step 1. These became lovely and soft.
Part 4- collected canter: begin with trot 1/2 steps; at first steps were too big and slow. I had to think “Trot in place” with a quick rhythm. These became good, and we were able to move to transition to collected canter. We finished with 3 strides of canter half pass- the first I have ever ridden.

Reflection: When a horse comes out resistant, first check saddle fit and pain issues. Then supple the horse. If horse is still resistant, (not wanting to go forward), one must get control of all 4 feet. In doing this, the trainer can systematically unlock all the horse’s evasions and regain effectiveness with all the aids. Be patient- this can take some time.   When an aid stops to work- go back to the steps described.  If a movement can’t be fixed with a quick supple or 1/2 halt in 1-2 strides, never try to fix a movement that has lost balance.  You have to ride to ride the horse you have that day, so the next day you have a willing & supple partner. Deborah told me the instruction I had today was not a riding lesson. Rather, she gave me the keys to unlock my horse in a way that professional trainers use- lots of quick transitions that require subtlety and feel; (advanced work, not for the majority of her students.) This boosted my self-confidence and my sense of accomplishment in what we have striven toward this past year.

Next Steps: Build on what we established yesterday- submission and quality of gaits

Journal #10: 9/24-25/16

Minutes of Training: 4 hours

Horse: Monarch

Goal: Deb Hindi Clinic

Methods- be specific, give details: Day One
Warm up walk- establish rhythm, long swinging strides, then trot rising with long neck & long loose strides to develop suppleness & warm muscles
“Low & Slow” to develop neck muscle in trot & canter. Connect horse with short reins, developing long neck. Lower crest & poll below withers, looking for neck muscle to connect to shoulder. Tempo must be slow so horse doesn’t lose balance & fall on forehand. Horse must be engaged to build muscle. Be careful- Don’t overwork & Don’t make sore. If horse is heavy on 1 side of bridle, tap with whip on shoulder to get him off heavy side & even in bridle.
Trot Work-
20 m circle rising trot low & slow
Trot across diagonal- start diagonal too slow & build for length.
Shoulder in on long side from low & slow, exaggerate angle to increase work. Use flexion & counter flexion to keep neck low and connected. Ride each stride; constantly make small subtle corrections to adjust for low, slow, straightness, angle in laterals. Ride to the release- (when things are good, give a release. As horse gets stronger, he will hold his position increasingly longer during release.)
Canter- 20 m circle low & slow. Inside rein to overbend/release. Outside rein and inside leg- counterflexion/release. Inside leg & inside rein- true flexion. Don’t work too long; sit on outside seat bone to transition to trot.
Walk on long lines, long rein, rest horse & cool out.
Day Two
Developing suppleness:
Warm up in walk:
long swinging straight lines
Bending lines riding small loops quarter-line to rail full length of long side
leg yield rail to quarter-line, then back to rail, keep horse straight: weight on outside seat bone, inside leg at girth moves horse laterally, tap in rhythm, (get stronger to increase effort in crossing hind leg.) Maintain straightness by alternating counter flexion/true flexion
Supple work in Trot rising: (use long rein)
Straight lines- down long side, across long diagonal, build power across diagonal, keep horse straight and engaged.
20m circles- inside rein for overbend/release, counter flex-inside leg keeps the bend, outside rein asks for flexion, use inside rein judiciously to prevent counterbend. True flexion- inside leg at girth, outside rein keeps neck straight, inside rein asks for flexion. Give with outside rein while keeping neck straight.
20 meter canter- same work as trot.

Reflection: “Too low/too slow” is NOT rolkur- the horse is never taken behind the vertical. The goal is to connect the neck muscle to the shoulder, or in Monarch’s case- build the neck muscle to connect to the shoulder. The bottom third is there, but not well-developed.

Always use leg with an elongated frame and deep heel. If the rider’s heel comes up, she’s lost her seat bone.

During suppling work: Monarch drops inside shoulder going to left. Use outside opening rein to help him find outside rein contact. Tap inside shoulder w/whip to move it out of the way. Same in canter; also on left lead, open outside rein to improve connection, tap inside shoulder to move it out of way, then ask for flexion. Improve bend by tapping with inside calf to move horse’s barrel to outside. Continue circle of aids & subtle prompt corrections: (outside open rein, vibrate inside rein for flexion, move & lift shoulder, move barrel to improve bend, repeat.) When suppling- only do trot-canter transitions- walk-canter is for building engagement

Next Steps: Use these steps in warm up- 10 mins suppling & 10 mins strengthening each day.

Journal #9: 9/13/16

Minutes of Training: 60

Horse: Monarch

Goal: Canter-Walk transitions & simple changes: better balance canter to walk & better accuracy/attention during the simple change, so horse picks up correct lead every time. Though the transition is very uphill with much animation, Monarch can get excited and ignore my aids as he jumps back into canter.

Methods- be specific, give details: 1. warm up/suppling/de-spook at walk: turn off track into small circle and leg yield back to track: bending (allowing my inside leg into his ribcage), leg yield into soft outside hand, and relaxed horse poll to tail
2. build engagement with 1/2 halt in 20 M circle and shoulder-in on long side at trot- horse is honestly in front of my leg and into outside rein
3. collected canter full arena- focus on engagement and straightness
4. canter-walk transitions in 20 M circle: change after full circle; change at 1/2 circle; change at 1/4 circle in both directions.
5. simple changes on centerline I-X-L
6. simple changes on serpentine

Reflection: Monarch has greatly improved his down transition from canter to walk. He was great in all the exercises until we practiced the serpentine. Then he got really jazzed, did not want to change the bend, and wanted to jump right back into the same canter lead. I had to change our work to calm him back, so we could reconnect. We practiced tranvers at walk, then turn on the haunch.

Next Steps: Tomorrow I will practice the canter serpentine with a walk loop between two canter loops to keep him more focused. When he can do the middle loop in a focused walk with correct bend, we will practice changing the lead in the middle loop.

#8 JOURNAL: 9/2/16

Minutes of Training: 90

Horse: Monarch

Goal: improve quality of shoulder-in, especially to the right

Methods- be specific, give details: 1. Since we’ve had most of August off, we started with a grooming session to reestablish connection and trust.
2. Warm-up- establish rhythm and looseness.
a- long rein, straight and diagonal lines focusing on a loose rhythmic walk, rising trot, working canter.
b- supple using bending aids in corners at walk and on 20m circle in rising trot: (weight on inside seat bone, inside leg at girth/outside leg supports bend behind the girth, inside vibrating rein creates flexion, supporting outside rein steady; point belly button in direction of turn)
a- In walk, leg yield from A-E. If he needs to be looser in the bend, use bending aids & circle at E- 8 meters. Continue to circle until bend is supple. If he feels loose, use bending aids at E, to prepare for shoulder-in; then 1/2 halt and slide hands to inside (without crossing withers) to bring shoulders off track. When position & angle are established, 1/2 halt again, point belly button down long side, use inside seat bone to establish rhythm and keep lateral movement; ride toward the give (of the inside rein.) Straighten at H. Repeat leg yield C-B; shoulder in B-F. Turn at A: change flexion, leg yield A-B. Test bend this side at B. When horse is ready, shoulder in B-M; straighten at M; turn down centerline at C, leg yield C-E; shoulder in E-V.
b- sitting trot: repeat exercise. When shoulder in becomes fluid, go down the long side in shoulder in, collected trot
a- Praise lavishly
b- canter down long side in collected trot as reward.
c- walk on loose rein
d- more grooming, cookies, praise

Reflection: Since the clinic last weekend, I have been stretching daily, as well as resuming some core exercises focusing on my asymmetries and stiff areas. In shoulder in, I put all my attention into my position, as well as “riding toward the give .” As soon as I could feel my inside seat bone weighted and moving with my horse, everything came together.

Next Steps: Continue to practice quality in the shoulder-in. Ride the exercise F-B: shoulder in; 10 meter circle; travers B-M, straighten at M, bend in corners and repeat up the next long side. Ride exercise in both directions.

#7 JOURNAL: 8/27-28/16

Minutes of Training: 90

Horse: Monarch

Goal: Clinic with Deb Hindi; improve angle and engagement of shoulder-in

Methods- be specific, give details: WARM-UP: (he came out quite fresh after being off for 2.5 weeks with a lovely forward rhythm in all 3 gates); supple: leg yield in walk; stretchy chewy 20 M in trot, 20 M canter circle on long rein with 1 rein/ then 2 rein ubersteichen
SCHOOLING: “Ride to the Release” half-halt, then release the inside rein. If the half-halt went through, the horse will maintain balance & position. If not, repeat halt halt and release. Focus on rider position- weight on inside seat bone with outside leg supporting just behind the girth. Use circle aids to establish bend, hold position with core. Give halt-halt, hold with outside rein and release the inside rein. Stay active: supple with inside rein if he counterflexes. Ride deep into the corner to create bend and position, then ride inside leg to outside rein to build power and engagement.
COOL DOWN: stretchy chewy trot in both directions, then walk on a loose rein.

Reflection: Need to focus on rider position: For shoulder in right- find & keep right seat bone, right leg is long and deep into stirrup with a hugging leg, looking down long side with core. (Left is much easier for both of us. Resume rider stretches and core work daily.)

Next Steps: Improvement after 2 days focusing on quality of bend, angle, and engagement. Continue to practice- become very aware of rider position.

Journal #7:  June 14/15

Minutes of Training: 80

Horse: Monarch

Goal: Ride in Doyleville with Deb before bringing Monarch home. Learn how to train like Deb when I am at home without her guidance. Improve my timing and effectiveness of aids.


Trot- 20 M circle at A.

  • Use bending aids to overbend- suppling from poll to tail. Don’t hold- supple a few steps, then release.
  • Counterflex a few steps to continue suppling poll. (In the counterflex, remember to ride with bending aids- my core points in direction of turn, inside leg to outside rein, outside hand “massages” for outside flexion.)
  • Shoulder fore- establish outside rein connection through inside leg. (Ride true bend and bring shoulder off circle to inside. With the position established, ride belly button to outside with inside leg to outside rein. Active hind end with whip to get quicker steps.) When connection is honest, return to circle with bending aids. Change direction/repeat on other rein.Walk- across diagonal; at X change direction. Sashay to encourage swinging back and overstep.Trot at C, sitting down the long side, sashay. Across diagonal medium trot rising. Sitting trot on next long side, sashay. Across opposite diagonal medium trot rising.Walk at A, 20 M circle. Use half steps to activate hind end; (feel for quick steps.) Back to walk, counterflex a few steps, return to true bend, 1/2 halt inside leg/outside rein, canter transition.Collected canter 20 M, use strong 1/2 halt if he is heavy, (make sure the rein is short enough to keep hands in “home” position.) Create the canter every stride.SCHOOLING: Walk-canter-walk-canter transitions on the circle. Balance the transition with 1/2 halt. Change direction through 1/2 turn on the haunches. (Think travers to ride turn on haunch- outside leg back to guard, inside leg taps in rhythm. 1/2 halt each stride.) In new direction, school walk-canter-walk-canter transitions.Reflection: FOCUS ON QUALITY- NOT THE MOVEMENT. If the transition or movement doesn’t happen, STOP & PREPARE again. Create the quality with preparation.Next Steps: As I get stronger from my back injury and my stamina increases, add more figures in collected canter. (I drew some figures in a notebook.  Review the notebook before going out to train.) Focus on a light horse who is raised in the front. When Monarch drops his shoulder, use strong 1/2 halt.

#6 JOURNAL: June 8 & 9, 2016

Minutes of Training: 3 hours

Horse: Monarch

Goal: Work with my trainer, Deb Hindi, developing the engagement and strength for a 2nd level horse

Methods- be specific, give details: Warm up: trot- establish an outside rein. 20 m circle. Use inside leg & a variety of positions including shoulder in, shoulder fore, true bending circle, and haunches in. When outside rein established- change rein through medium trot rising across diagonal. Repeat on new rein. Develop outside rein in canter- repeat same exercises in 20 meter walk circle. Feel for acceptance and contact with outside rein. From walk with engagement and outside rein, cue canter. Keep canter & outside rein in 20 meter circle. Repeat same exercises in circle. Change direction- work other rein.
Schooling: figure 8- 10M canter circle to 20M counter canter, repeat. When both canters are balanced, ride across diagonal in true canter with simple change at X. Repeat exercise on other rein. Trot work – collected in sh-in/travers. Medium across diagonal. Keep neck up in all diagonals.

Reflection: With Monarch staying with Deb for 2.5 weeks, he is receiving concentrated training and making profound progress! It’s exciting and very motivating to train such a talented horse and willing partner. I am grateful to Deb for giving us such effective training. Monarch is with Deb for one more week.

Next Steps: Ride with Deb twice next week. Learn as much as I can while I’m with her-focusing on my timing and rider position. I will then bring him home and practice daily keeping in mind our 2nd level show at the end of July.

#5 JOURNAL  5/2/16

Minutes of Training: 60 mins

Horse: Monarch

Goal: Though Monarch has been difficult to motivate in the canter, I will focus on my position and influence him through a good seat and well timed aids. “Sit like a Princess, and Monarch will carry me.” This is the advice my trainer gives me when my horse is acting dominant and not listening to my seat and aids. Jane Savoie often reminds her readers to never force or push your horse. “Grinding will distort your position.”

Methods- be specific, give details: WARM-UP
1. Establish a good marching rhythm. Ask horse to supple neck and flex poll. When horse is supple and marching forward, engage the horse’s mind through many transitions and changes of movements. Change up schooling movements in walk, (leg yield, circle, bending line, shoulder in, travers), with forward trot work in between. Do short laterals in walk, then immediately transition to a forward trot on a straight line, then transition quickly back to walk.
1. For the canter transition, (in walk or trot), first PREPARE: (sit up, outside 1/2 halt, inside flexion). Second FEEL when outside hind leg is about to touch the ground, (as my hip is lowering)- at this moment, give canter aids: (outside leg slightly back; inside leg scoop forward and in; hips mirror leg position.
2. As horse understands that he will not be pushed into canter, sit up, sit still, and merely think- “canter.” Experiment with how light your aids can be.
3. “Sit like a princess.” Heather Moffett, “Enlightened Equitation,” p 37: Encourage the horse to lift and round his back with each stride making a little jump. In the 3 beats of the canter, allow pelvis to rotate forward, (engage core and flatten back); then return to an UPRIGHT seat- (no driving seat.) Allow quiet legs on the horse’s sides to maintain impulsion, use very light touch with calves as the back reaches the highest point. A slight squeeze with your leg will lighten your seat. Give a squeeze every 4th stride to maintain impulsion.
4. Janet Foy suggests using the whip in the outside hand. Use whip quietly to refresh canter.
5. If horse breaks, never push horse back into canter. Return to trot or walk, establish an impeccable position, and make a new transition with preparation and feel in the correct moment. Reward horse when he holds canter for at least a 20 M circle.
6. Intersperse trot work, (shoulder in & tranvers) between walk breaks and canter work.

Reflection: “Sit like a Princess” feels really good- the feeling gives me a mental image of what I must look like. It feels very balanced and light.

“Sit like a Princess” reminds me that I am the brains and my horse is the brawn. It’s my job to direct, and my horse’s job to carry. When I sit like a princess, I don’t distort my position by “grinding,” as Jane Savoie says.

“Sit like a Princess” requires both trust and courage. Trust that my horse will respond, and courage to use the whip when he ignores me. He did give me one big buck, and then the issue was over. At that point, he decided it was less work to cooperate, than to resist.

Next Steps: Hillwork tomorrow- to build on what we are doing. Cantering and trotting up hills builds strength and stamina. Getting out of the arena creates a forward horse.

#4  JOURNAL  4-6-16

Minutes of Training: 60

Horse: Monarch

Goal: Rider- test position, maintain balanced alignment

Horse- positive response to go

Methods: Warm up- liberty groundwork to test connection; I have not been able to ride for over a week. During this work, Monarch became quite aggressive and dominant, not letting me be the leader. At the point when he lunged at my arm, begging (demanding) a treat, I changed direction for this day’s training session.

New Goal: establish mutual, collaborative connection

New Method: use long lines developing relaxed walk-trot-canter, then work the transitions in a fluid, forward manner. Use inside rein to work relaxation and suppleness. Use outside rein to develop half halt and balance.

Reflection: When I asked him to track up in the walk, he became tense. I could see he was tight in his back and did not want to track up. In the trot, he became explosive. I am so glad I changed my plan and did not ride him. He could have hurt me. Using long lines, I was able to work through the tension and reestablish a sense of connection and obedience. It was somewhat intimidating to have ahold of such power when he was exploding, (like the proverbial “tiger by the tail,”) but it was also spectacular. Bringing him down from the bucking canter and unbalanced gallop, he did an extended trot. Responding to my 1/2 halt for balance, he moved into a gorgeous passage. I was in awe of the beauty he exhibited. Eventually the trot-canter transitions become relaxed and lovely. At this point he could also overtrack in the walk. We ended on a positive note.

Next Steps: I need to continue with this groundwork, (long lines and liberty), for a few more sessions until I am sure he has returned to his usually angelic self. I need to remind myself to be patient, as I am anxious to get back to riding and training. “The slow way is always the fastest way…”

FEEDBACK FROM BRONWEN CLEARY:  “I really enjoyed your training journal from today.  Definitely much safer working from the ground when they have pent up angst for whatever reason, especially if it is expressed as belligerence. The beauty of groundwork is that you can stay safe and channel the energy into an acceptable expression instead, and as you experienced today, end up with something beautiful which I’m sure you both enjoyed.”

#3  JOURNAL   3/19/16

Minutes of Training: 6 hours

Horse: Monarch

Goal: attend Winter Wake-Up clinic

Methods: Winter-Wake Up clinic goals: reconnect with your horse, then use biomechanics (principles and techniques) to get your horse supple for returning to work. The day started with groundwork on a lead line. The connection was so strong with Monarch, that I was able to do all the exercises- (forward, turn to inside, turn to outside, halt, backup, walk through cavaletti leading from both side) at liberty. This was the first time I have been so successful with the liberty work. I’d like to try this at trot soon. Next we moved on to bodywork. We did some of the Hilary Clayton core activation work, and then I learned some new stretches that bodyworkers use. I was able to release many tightnesses that Monarch had developed over the winter layoff.

After lunch, some of us did longe work and others did work on the long lines. Monarch and I worked on long lining. Again, he was very connected. I was able to get the 1/2 halt through, so we could work on transitions within the gait at trot and canter. Then we did cavaletti on the long lines.

The last part of the clinic was mounted work. I immediately noticed as huge difference, (improvement) in Monarch’s way of moving. He was very loose and forward- something we had struggled with for the past week, as I was bringing him back into work. Since he is coming back from a winter layoff, this part of the clinic was rather modified, with many walk breaks. He did some turn on haunches/forehand; walk-trot transitions, a bit of trot through cavaletti on straight and bending lines, and a bit of canter.

Reflection: I want to incorporate liberty in my daily warm up, as well as the body stretches, as Monarch struggles with engagement with a deep step under his body.

Loved the long line work, because in the long lines, the trainer is able to see what the horse is doing. Unlike longeing, the trainer has both an inside and outside rein, so training is much like mounted work, and the 1/2 halt is possible.

The clinic made a huge and noticeable improvement in my horse’s way of going. This was a great learning experience- added some new tools to helping my horse, and I learned that the spring resistances are in the body- not the brain.

#2 JOURNAL     Date: 3/17/16

Minutes of Training: 70

Horse: Monarch

Goal: 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

Methods: OBEDIENCE: ground work- I will work on both his inside and outside in both directions at walk and halt- Monarch will keep his own space, (not fall into my space). Laterals- Monarch will leg yield and hold shoulder in position down the long side with light aids from me.

FORWARD: use Jane Savoy’s FORWARD strategies, (if he slows down, I give light aid, if he doesn’t surge forward, give strong aid to get his attention, then back to walk and ask again lightly. If he gives a surge, reward. If he ignores- strong aid again until I get reaction. After every strong aid, bring him back to walk and ask again lightly until he learns to go forward without strong aid. Never leave a question with a correction.)

MY POSITION: check in frequently at walk and trot

Reflection: Obedience on ground was very good.

Forward was very difficult, with bucking and many corrections. We will need to continue to work on this. To be fair, he is most likely out-of-shape, though I think he was also being lazy.

My position is improving and keeping a correct leg is much easier.

Next Steps: Tomorrow, do the same warm up on the ground with walk-halt and laterals before work on lunge. Add the request to back up from a light aid, after he is warmed up to get him thinking about working his hind end and to go more forward. Walk- halt- backup- forward….repeat

Before mounting, lunge to work on forward trot with light aid.  Watch to see him lengthen his stride and move with more energy from light aid.  When he is reliable light and forward, reward, then mount.  Same exercise from the saddle.

#1 JOURNAL    early March

GOAL: improve the effectiveness of my seat through physical therapy and conscious attention to rider position and balance.  I have traveled to Denver and worked with my physical therapist for 2 days in January.  She made some remarkable changes in correcting my rotated hip, my frozen left knee, and the flexibility of both my feet and ankles.  My PT exercises were quite difficult at first, though I am making progress through regular practice.  Exercise routine includes 3 different core strengthening repeated 3 times,  held for 2 mins each, twice/day; a hip stabilization exercise held for 30 section on both sides repeated 3 times, and a posture exercise.

METHOD: use awareness of my “new posture” at walk, trot, and canter; continue to focus on the muscles I am developing in my PT while I am riding and continue to check in on my overall position, listen to Monarch and adjust based on his feedback.  First day back in saddle, we worked at walk only.  Next session, we did walk and trot.  By the fourth day training, we could do walk, trot, and canter.

REFLECTION:  I am getting much stronger- able to hold the first two exercises for a minute and 50 seconds.  The last exercise, I can hold for a minute and 1/2, but I struggle to keep my back completely still and flat.  Also, I find it hard to fit 2 PT sessions in my day, especially now that I have increased my time with each exercise.  I will instead do my reps X4, X5, and finally build up to X6 in a single session.  I have improved the posture exercise so much, my 3 reps have progressed to 30 reps without pain!  The exercises and the muscle/joint remodeling from my physical therapist have made it possible to ride without my leg on the horse, except a bit in the canter.

When I first started asking Monarch for an active trot, he was resistant and did buck.  I had to be both assertive and consistent until he accepted my aids.  Also, since I took my leg off immediately after asking, I think the request was both clear and fair for him.  The issue resolved itself after the second day.

I had a lot of traveling this past week, so I am anxious to begin working with Monarch again.  I was able to do the PT while traveling, but Monarch did get a week off after only one week of training.  Our work together needs to be more consistent.  With the weather improving and daylight savings time now in effect, I am hopeful for more consistency with our training.

NEXT STEPS:  Continue with P/T and go to the therapist for two more sessions next week.  Begin riding Monarch every day again, with focus on position for me.  For Monarch focus is prompt & forward  obedience.

Road to Bronze 2016 Update

Monarch and I finished the year with one qualifying score at 2nd level, showing at Dressage in the Rockies at the Colorado Horse Park.  Equitherapy and the Road to Bronze has moved to Cheri Isgreen Training Journal in conjunction with the USLF Journal Collaborative.

Road to Bronze 2016

My training journal for this year’s efforts toward my USDF Bronze Rider Medal can be found on the USLF Journal Collaborative under members.  Here is the link to my page:

The USLF Lovin’ Ours Lipz Journal Collaborative is open to all United States Lipizzan Members and their registered horses.  The blog is available for all to read.  It is of special interest to those who are interested in Lipizzan horses, ride dressage, & train young horses.

X halt salute

X halt salute


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.



A New Year Message from Pom ….

Thank you, thank you, thank you Pom for your wise words. Happy New Year. I have applied for a scholarship to study on a more regular basis with my very gifted trainer this summer. I’ll start making more posts in the coming year, especially if I receive the grant. In the meantime, I will share your heartwarming post.

About cavaliereattitude

Englishwoman, transplanted to SW France in ’86, blogging – with a large dose of humour and self-deprecation – about life with my husband and our horses, the never-ending renovation of an ancient and crumbly stone farmhouse and the attempt to carve a beautiful garden and productive pasture out of a woodland wilderness………

Cavalière Attitude


It’s a little known fact that we horses are great believers in New Year Resolutions.  Or at least Reflections.

Let’s face it.  We can realistically expect to celebrate far fewer New Years than you, our human counterparts.

So instead of going out partying or going to bed early pretending you don’t care, if you humans were to peek into the barn or the field shelter around midnight, you might find your horse and his or her companions mulling over the year past and thinking about what to make of the year ahead.

In smarter establishments than mine, elite athletes may be bragging about the cups they bagged in 2014 and the prizes they have in sight for upcoming seasons.  Some may be yawning – having heard it all before – quietly hoping their sore backs and tendons hold up another year.  Others may be apprehensive about a move away…

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