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 Apr 18-23, 2017


Monarch very animated earlier this week.  It took me an hour to catch him, because I did not want to trick him with treats; I wanted him to choose to come to me.  Eventually he did allow me to snap on his lead and we practiced 2-year old stuff- leading, halting, and backing.

Date: 4/23/17

Minutes of Training: 90

Horse: Monarch

Goal: – practice timing and position of whip whispers all 3 gaits.
– test effectiveness through horse’s response, (does he improve? how?)

Methods- be specific, give details: Through my lessons with Susan, I have developed 2 strategies for my warm up with Monarch. Problem 1- horse is very spooky at C end of arena, particularly R-M-C, but some days in both directions S-H-C-M-R. Today, I began immediately with neck supples on the long side as soon as he began to shy. I noticed that right away, he gave his neck and began to chew. From there, he allowed me to connect, so rhythm, suppleness, and connection improved right away. Problem 2- In the warmup, Monarch has no rhythm when we go to trot after the loose walk. He is quite behind the leg, and uses a funky evasion of jumping in the front to canter while dragging his feet and slow trotting behind. Some days it takes quite a long time to get him engaged. To develop an energetic, rhythmic trot from the beginning , I used the rhythmic whip whispering on inside hip/croup in the moment of the sit in posting trot. When the horse lost rhythm or impulsion, I posted quietly, ignoring any resistance, and quietly kept the correct beat with rhythmic taps in my post. (I did not post harder, use my spur or whip to get more impulsion.) I also counted out loud 1-2-1-2, giving the aid on the 1 (sit) beat. Like the neck supples, the whip whispers corrected the problem quite quickly. We were able to begin the schooling part of our training much sooner, as he quickly warmed up with this new routine.
Here is the exercise:
F-R marching walk, long neck, suppling poll with flexion;counter flexion. R-M neck supples- opening inside rein, release/test, supple again, until horse relaxes and releases. Through corners M-C-H, 1/4 circle supple: (inside spur in rhythm of walk asking horse to step up and over, outside leg guarding bend, opening inside rein asking horse to unlock neck, light check outside rein only if horse falls or shies). H-E-V, trot with whip whisper on sit (1) beat. V-A-F 1/4 circle supple in trot.

Reflection: test effectiveness through horse’s response: does he improve? yes!
how? horse became more engaged, increased impulsion & lightness

We accomplished our goal quickly with this routine, so we took a nice hack outside the arena.

Next Steps: with this much engagement, I’d like to practice walk-canter-canter transitions. I will do the exercise in Uta Graf, part 1/section 2: 10 strides of each. Goal- make it effortless/drink coffee

4/21/17: practice whip whisper in all 3 gaits: timing and position for rider; response & engagement from horse
comments about today’s training: excellent response from horse; horse is now obedient & not reactive. Both the training and the familiarity with the sheep, (they are lambing next door & increasing their numbers each day), have helped him to resettle. Rider- timing is better on left side in trot after practicing on the right side first.

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.


spring shenanigans!


Road to Bronze 2017


4/1/17: practice walk, trot, canter from Thursday lesson.  Rider goal- improve feel & lightness, supple more lightly with fingertips.  Practice walk/canter transitions, remember to supple throughout the transition.  Bring horse back to walk, when he looses balance and/or braces.

Date: 3/30/17

Minutes of Training: 105

Horse: Monarch

Goal: Horse & Rider- use the supple circle to release blocks/bracing
Rider- develop feel to know when horse is about to brace; supple before it becomes a problem; develop feel to release the instant the horse releases; develop feel to test suppleness with light aids before horse braces
Horse- release bracing in neck and ribcage at the soft touch of inside spur, or the beginning of an inside opening rein

Methods- be specific, give details:

1. Warm up in walk; use whole school. When horse braces, take him into supple circle.
2. As horse gets supple, bring him back to 6M supple circle; pick the moment to take him into trot. When horse braces, go on circle to get him to release neck & rib cage, (supple with inside leg and opening inside rein).  When horse releases, go large. Every time horse braces, go back on the circle. (It took several circles before the horse could hold his softness the full length of the school. Rider needs to continually correct and softly test.)
3. Return to supple circle 6 M in walk. Look for the golden moment to canter. Raise knee to sit on inside seat bone, slide outside leg back, (cluck if horse needs clarity), canter-supple-canter. As soon as horse loses balance & braces, go back to walk. Supple and return to canter.

Reflection: When trotting or cantering out of the supple circle, continue to supple throughout the transition to keep the horse light.
Homework: Walk-Canter transitions. Be aware of horse’s balance, lightness, and bracing. As soon as he’s soft, canter. As soon as he braces, walk. Supple quickly & ask for another canter transition; don’t take too long to get horse to release; immediately canter. Many good transitions with just a few steps of canter are much better than a full circle of “bracey” canter.

Next Steps: Practice this homework for next week. Practice seat bone exercise on hard surface, (low stool or bench), to get pelvis & hips loose and brain connected to subtle weight shifts.

Date: 3/29/17

Horse: Monarch

Minutes of Training: 60

Goal: hack out alone to enjoy a beautiful spring day

Will you continue this goal or make a new goal for next training?: new

comments about today’s training; (optional): Lots of scary moments:
big, loose dog
braying donkey
heavy equipment that made Monarch start to spin in the middle of road with traffic
a big plane came over the hillside on approach to runway, just as we were crossing that spot. Loud rumble, giant sweeping shadow, and low aircraft almost ready to land
Used suppling inside leg to outside rein and shoulder-in away from scary stimulus to bring him back to me.

Date: 3/27/17

Horse: Monarch

Minutes of Training: 50

Goal: Rider- soft aids; feel for the moment of release; sit on back pockets
Horse- build strength by taking weight on inside hind leg- supple circle & laterals; stay honest & forward

Will you continue this goal or make a new goal for next training?: yes

comments about today’s training It was windy, dark, and threatening rain. Monarch was spooky, so we spent the warm-up getting connected on the outside rein. When he shied at the NW corner of the arena, I took a strong contact in the outside rein while sending him forward with my inside spur. This is a common problem area in my arena, and this approach quickly solved the problem. Before I learned this approach, I had some days when I could not work him through the spook to use the full arena.

I have groomed Monarch several days/week through the month of March.  Each time I groom, there is a blizzard of white hair.  Ironically my baby kitten, who’s name is Blizzard, loves to play in Monarch’s hair.  He is so naughty; he tries to climb Monarch’s tail or hind leg.  Monarch is so gentle, he merely lifts his leg, when Bliz become’s too annoying.

Road to Bronze 2017

FullSizeRenderIn the last post I updated my log entries, which are short notes describing my goal and how my training went.  In this post, I will update my journal entries, which are detailed records of training goals, strategies, adjustments during training, reflections on the training, and next steps.  Again, the most recent entry appears at the top.


Date: 3/23/17

Minutes of Training: 2 hours

Horse: Monarch

Goal: Lesson # 2 with Susan Schneider:  step up and under for solid connection; refine rider aids

Methods- be specific, give details: 1. supple circle- step up & under on 6M circle- make sure horse brings inside hind leg up, then under his body, taking full weight. This is almost a lateral move. Rider gives soft spur in rhythm with the walk; leave spur close to horse to quickly give the aid in the next stride instead of bringing foot back to “home;” rider must be quick, light, and sensitive to aid horse’s balance. When the horse gets “stuck” in the neck, he cannot move his feet. Give horse an opening inside hand to lead the head and neck in, hand low and still at the knee. Wait for the horse to figure it out/release; (same as Uta Graf, Ch. 1). When horse releases neck, rider releases aid; (return hand back to “home”).
2. Trot work from 6M walk supple circle to 20M trot circle. Use opening inside rein as needed to unlock neck.
3. Trot full arena: for a dressage test, ride the corners as 1/4 of a supple circle with inside leg to outside rein. Tap spur to encourage inside hind leg to step up and under taking full weight. Come out of corner in shoulder-fore, (or whatever movement is required; horse will be set up.) For schooling, ride the corner more shallowly: use elements of supple circle to yield haunches to wall; use opening rein as needed. Down the long side, if horse gets stuck- circle in trot with suppling aids & opening rein. Back to long side when horse releases. If horse gets strong, rushes, goes on forehand- circle and supple. Feel him come up & under, become light.
4. Build on trot work: after corner, ride on 2nd track and leg yield to the wall. When the work gets hard & horse slows down, use the whip at the leg to keep the rhythm. In leg yield, use the opening rein to help release neck so horse can step under himself.
5. Changing the whip in the classical way.
a. put both reins in outside hand with inside rein on the bottom
b. push whip down if using a double-balanced whip without the top knob
c. flip whip up
d. reach outside hand on top of inside hand and grasp whip
e. pick up inside rein

Reflection: *BE SENSITIVE & LIGHT! Release IMMEDIATELY when the horse releases. A light aid is more effective than a strong aid. When you find yourself giving strong aids, tap the whip to wake up horse. Then return to light aids. Keep riding through all challenges & spooks.
*A spook is a lack of connection on the outside rein. When you return to the spot of the spook, give aids for supple circle (inside leg, 1/2 halt on outside rein, opening rein on inside). Repeat each time you return to spook spot, until the horse gets over it.
*Use the whip hard enough to get the point across,(be tactful), then use soft spur. Baucher describes this at length; this classic can be downloaded for free on Amazon Kindle
*Practice changing whip until it becomes automatic

Next Steps: Practice and refine rider aids; strengthen horse horse to accept full weight on inside hind leg; supple horse to release neck

Date: 3/21/17

Minutes of Training: 60

Horse: Monarch

Goal: create a forward, honest horse

Methods- be specific, give details: 1. test fit of girth; is it too tight restricting movement or breathing? Lunge first with girth snug, then loose. No difference in movement. Canter departs were good; he had some difficulty holding the canter for a full circle. Is this a fitness issue?
2. Mounted work: supple circles walk & trot.
3. Shoulder-In: test connection on the 2nd track- directives from Susan, my trainer, & Ute Graf- (Ch.1). Shoulder in to E or B, then straight ahead with all ingredients of the training scale.
3. Canter on 20M circle and down long side
4. Stretchy chewy trot circle in trot/both directions

Reflection: 1. I have a comfort-shaped girth. A tight girth wasn’t causing the issue, but you always have to test all the variables. Lo and behold- it was an issue of balance. Ute discusses this at length in Ch 1. She discusses how suppleness is closely tied to allowing balance, and it is the horse’s job to find his balance. This will make a good discussion when we finish with the preface.
2. supple circles in the walk, then on to trot. I made the mistake of asking for the supple circle in the trot on the same 6M volte, as the walk. He lost balance, rebelled, & tried to buck. As to the old dressage maxim- “straight, calm, forward,” I took him back to the rail and sent him forward. Then I used Jane Savioe’s advice, “never leave a question with a correction.” After the strong aid to go forward, I brought him back to the walk, sent him forward in the trot from a very light leg aid. Luckily he surged forward immediately, so I could praise him. Then we redid the trot supple circle in 15M, instead of 6, so I could praise him again.
2. He became very balanced and connected. Again Jane Savoie, “you know they are connected when you feel they can do anything you ask in the next stride….”
3. Canter- lovely- light, jumping, willing, balanced. We repeated this on the other side, and it was nice in both directions. He got lots of praise and some peppermint.
4. We both enjoy, a good way to end on a very positive note. Lots of praise & some treats, too

Next Steps: Training with Susan Schneider, second lesson

Date: 3/1/17

Minutes of Training: 45

Horse: Monarch

Goal: audit training to see if Susan Schneider is a good fit for Monarch and I. In the methods section, you can read my notes from what I observed. This horse has had severe foot and hoof problems, was almost put down last year. He was also trained too hard and too quickly on the competitive circuit which fried his brain. With careful and patient work, he is slowly and surely coming back into the beautiful promise of his conformation.

Methods- be specific, give details: Warm up
Circles with neck supple.

Leg yield- getting control outside of horse. 1/4 line to 2nd track- don’t let hrs lean on wall. Correctn- outside rein. Touch outside. No inside rein

Test sh-in

Develop engagement. Back on supple circle still At walk- inside bend small circle- trot out of small circle to
Big circle, then go large. Keep outside rein on second track. Spooking can b lack of connectn in outside rein. Correct spook with half halt on outside rein.

Walk–Step up & under sh-in on circle. Use inside spur in rhythm. Then back to trot. Unlock neck by opening inside rein. Invite him to drop neck and let go with rein. Arms longer- reina can stay short. Lightly touch with spur. In rhythm- forward & under. Allow him to push from behind when trans from walk to trot. If there is a question I’m horse should I trot – rider rises. Soft leg- don’t use muscle.

Down transits- if he lean, hold in rein only by leaning back- don’t pull rein.

Canter- circle in trot, work bend, sit on inside seatbone, be supple in transtn- canter off inside seatbone only. Aid with voice. Don’t drive with seat or body. Wrong lead is lack of connectn on outside rein.

Hard for horse to connect on outside right rein. – going to left. Horses are tight on right side. Establish outside rein, sit on inside left seatbone, canter to left.

After canter, more leg yield , sh-in, travers.

Long legs- high spur. Short leg- low spur.

Reflection: I am very excited to begin work with Susan. She has a great depth of knowledge and has much empathy with the horses. Her strength in understanding biomechanics to improve movement, remediate a horse’s prior bad training, or treat an injury/poor conformation is remarkable.

Next Steps: Get on her schedule with Monarch, as I bring him tactfully back into work.

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, 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

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.