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


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.

Spring activities

I love greens as much as my horses.  Yesterday, on Easter Sunday, I began work on my 2013 garden.  I filled in gaps in my overwintered spinach:

spinachand planted another raised bed with several lettuces, radicchio, escarole, carrots, beets, radishes, and kohlrabi.  I like to have plenty on hand for my equestrian friends, who don’t have time for a garden.  This bed doesn’t look very tidy because the coffee filters from the compost break down more slowly than the veggie waste.

gardenAs a twist on “green” gardens, I am using my reused Christmas cards for row markers.  Principles of the 3R’s:  (reduce waste, reuse greeting cards, and recycle paper at season’s end by composting the paper into the soil.)  I loved this choice for radishes and will enjoy displaying some of my cards a second time around.


More signs of spring


playing in the sandbox with my tractor

playing in the sandbox with my tractor

The snow has melted, the arena has dried, and the manure has been picked up and spread on the pasture.  It’s time to begin physical conditioning of the horses before we move on to serious schooling.

spring cleaning

spring cleaning

It was warm enough to wash  all those saddle pads from the fall and hang them on the line.  (Note: my lawn is the new “pasture.”)


Winds of Change

original watercolor (copyright Cheri Isgreen)

original watercolor                        (copyright Cheri Isgreen)

I have just returned from two weeks of beach walking and drawing in Mexico.  I’m planning a “side trip” in this blog to record my journey.  Until then, I wanted to share this motivational quote I received from a friend, “When life brings big winds of change that almost blow you over, close your eyes, hang on tight, and BELIEVE.”

It was so cold and wintery when I left.  This morning when I went out to feed, I felt a cool breeze on my face, but the sun was shining with promise of a warmer day.  The snow has mostly melted, and the ground is drying out.  Strong spring winds follow on the heels of winter, so this post presages the season.