Monthly Archives: December 2009

The USDF Symposium with Jan Brink

The USDF Symposium was held in Austin the first weekend of December. It was the first time it’s been in Texas in a very long time. A friend and I planned to go. Who knew the morning we were to make the 3-hour drive, it would be SNOWING in Houston!  It rarely snows here, and NEVER so early in the season. It was quite surreal driving with big fat flakes swirling around! Driving wasn’t hard or treacherous – just WEIRD. 😉

Jan Brink is best known for his long-time partnership with the Swedish warmblood stallion Briar. As a team, they competed internationally, in multiple Olympics and World Cup competitions. I was lucky enough to see them twice at the World Cups in Las Vegas – most recently at their last performance this past April when Briar was officially retired.

I was disappointed in some of the demonstration riders. I had hoped that some more of the top riders in our region would be part of the symposium, but it was not so. I felt several of the riders were not quite advanced enough to really be able to demonstrate some of the exercises Mr. Brink asked them do.

I took notes sporadically during the two days – when my fingers weren’t too frozen to write! The facility was ‘climate controlled’ but that meant 60 degrees inside instead of the 45 it was outside! In general, Mr. Brink was very sympathetic to the horse, patient with the riders, and even got on several of the horses, which surprised and impressed me.

Exericses:

In a circle, ask the horse for shorter steps, then longer steps. Start on a 20 meter circle and ask for longer steps. Go down to 15 m circle and ask for shorter steps, then decrease size to 12m and ask for yet shorter steps…then go back to 20m circle and longer steps again.

For Flying Changes:

Canter across the diagonal and come to walk at corner. Turn around and do it the opposite direction. When the horse is doing the exercise well, and not anticipating the flying change, do a flying change before the corner. When you can do one flying change on the straight line, then you can try to do one flying change in the first half of the diagonal line, then another one at the corner. Note: Do NOT pull on the inside rein of the new direction before change. Use the ‘new’ outside rein. Otherwise you’ll make your horse crooked.

Canter exercise:

Do 5 strides of half pass in canter, then do five strides straight, then do five strides of half pass. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Canter Pirouette Exercise:

In shorter steps, do travers on 15m circle, then down to 10m circle, then 6m circle. Don’t turn shoudler, just ride haunches…then out to bigger circle again in longer steps. Be sure to keep the horse round in the neck.

Simple Change Exericse:

ON centerline, pick up right canter, then walk. Do leg yield in walk 5-6 steps, then take left canter.

Random tips:

Do not drill the horse on things she does very well, OR things she doesn’t do well.

Be sure and work long and low during your session – do not ask the horse to be ‘up’ and collected the entire ride.

If the horse is tense in the walk, take many walk breaks and just let them walk on a long rein.

In trot, keep the same trot stride length, but slow the rhythm, then make quicker. This leads to passage, wher the energy goes up instead of forward.

Make use of the centerline and quarterlines to school. It will help you make sure your horse is truly and honestly straight.

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Notes from the best clinic I’ve ever attended

I attended the USDF National Symposium with Jan Brink a few weeks ago. I took some notes there, and will post them eventually. But this clinic I went to last year, hosted by the Houston Dressag Society (I think in partnership with USDF) was the best clinic I have ever audited. Ever.  So I thought I would share. Even tho my notes are more than a year old, the wisdom contained in Mr. Clarke’s teaching is timeless.

Stephen Clarke Symposium

5/25/08, Canaan Ranch, Fulshear, TX

 

General quotes:

“People ask if their horse is collected ‘enough.’  If the horse can do the movements easily, it’s collected enough.  At the end of the day, in most dressage competitions, the winner will be the horse that is the most collected.”

 

Many people, in an attempt to ‘collect’ the horse more, actually shut it down – by pulling it from front to back…instead, make the hind legs carry the weight for more collection and the movements will be more free and expressive.

 

“Being above the bit is not a mortal sin. Being behind the bit IS a mortal sin.”  To get a horse that’s behind the bit better, ride with reins in one hand for more steady connection.

 

“What you make by force, you only keep by force.”

 

Riders throw away points because they don’t ride clear transitions exactly where the test calls for them.

 

 

Extended Walk

Is very similar to ‘free walk’ but with more connection. OK for horse to stretch down a bit – actually encouraged. Judge are looking for freedom through the topline and through steps.  On LONG rein, not LOOSE rein. Difference between free and extended is that you expect horse to stretcher lower and freer stretch in free walk. There is not a LOT of difference between them. But Ex. Walk needs to be on CONTACT. Needs relaxed, ground covering steps.

 

Watch one front foot – does it ‘wait’ for the rear so they really separate?  Ext walk needs to show a clear 1, 2, 3, 4 beat. You want maximum amount of ground coverage, but also needs connection over the back from the hind legs.  It’s more about relaxation than anything else. Most riders ‘chase’ the horses and make the strides shorter rather than longer.

 

Walk Pirouettes

Can only be as small as collection allows. Think of a bit of travers when doing them – do half circle in travers ..then the pirouette actually improves the collection.

 

The movements are not ‘tricks’  – they are training exercises.

 

Hint: Ask for collection before the exercise and then ride forward _in_ the exercise.

 

Half Pass

Think a bit of shoulder fore then turn nose, neck and shoulder on the line of travel.

 

Exercise to prep for canter pirouette:

Make a square at the canter, asking for extreme collection at corners, then ride forward. The degree of collection should almost be that required of canter pirouette.  As always, ask for collection before the exercise, then uphill and forward during the movement. THAT produces brilliance.

 

Flying change Exercise:

Do a four loop serpentine at canter, ask for a ‘pirouette canter’ at rail, then an up, forward flying change at centerline. Make sure the horse is in font of you enough that you don’t have to hurry.

 

Changing Direction:

Most important to be able to change horse’s body position before you begin turning. The trot or canter HP zigzag are both just more complex versions of change of direction.  Also, in flying change, make new position with new outside rein BEFORE you make the flying change.

 

In the canter zigzag, the flying change is the FIRST stride of the NEW direction, NOT the last stride of the old direction. Think HP to right, ride a left shoulder in THEN flying change into the left HP.

 

Half Pass

In HP, look through he horse’s ears like you’re looking down the barrel of a gun to see where you are going. Make sure you sit in the direction of the bend so you do not interfere with the bend – almost _lean_ that direction – not really, but THINK that so you do not lean the wrong way.  In HP, think more forward than sideways. HP is forward with a bend – not sideways.

 

Even in young horses, change the bend in HP before starting the opposite direction (prep for canter HP zigzag down the road). Will make it easier when you move up to canter zigzag.

 

 

Three things are vital for long-term success:

  • The horse must be 100% in front of the leg
  • The horse must be through its back and supple on both sides
  • The horse must be submissive

 

Dressage is foremost about the quality of the gaits in all the movements.

 

Canter Pirouette

In a good CP, hindquarters are lowered and shoulders are elevated. Should maintain 3 beat canter rhythm, but _almost_ become 4 beat because the hind leg of diagonal pair touches ground slightly sooner than the front, but still looking for a regular canter. Size of the CP is important because the smaller size equals greater degree of difficulty. BUT, correct, larger CP is always better than inferior smaller CP. A good CP needs rhythm, balance, consistent, controlled rotation and bend – ideally 6-8 steps with inside hind on the spot or size of dinner plate.

Exercise: Piaffe to canter if you can – if not, think ‘piaffe canter’ – almost in place, then do travers on 8m circle. Control the hind legs, keeping them in place and turning the shoulders around haunches.  Collect the horse in very collected canter BEFORE first step of CP, then you can go more forward after first stride of CP. Don’t go INTO CP and try to collect – it’s too late. But that’s what everyone tries to do. 😉

 

Piaffe/Passage

Piaffe first or passage first?

Mr. Clarke says that horses do passage in nature. They do not do piaffe in nature. Piaffe is therefore more difficult for most horses. It is more natural for a horse to go forward from piaffe to passage than to learn to ‘passage in place’ so he would always teach piaffe first.

 

There is no or very little suspension in piaffe. There is prolonged moment of suspension in passage.

 

Correct piaffe – forearm horizontal to cannon bone of the supporting leg, at a height about ½ up the cannon bone. In rear, hind leg raises to fetlock of supporting leg.

 

If piaffe is too forward, do it on the spot, then have horse just stand in place. Then piaffe on spot, then stand.   When schooling passage, go quicker collected trot to bigger, slower trot, then you get the energy you need for passage.

 

I take no responsibility for the accuracy of my spelling/dictation/memory, etc! LOL!

Cyndi

The last show of 2009

Each year a local farm has a December show called “Dickens on the Sand,” which is a takeoff of our local Dickens on the Strand, held in the historic Strand area of Galveston island.  It’s always fun because riders are encourage to wear holiday attire, and at lunch there is a costume contest.

Despite the fact I had not ridden Faxx much the last few months, I decided to take him. Unfortunately it also rained almost every day for the two weeks prior to the show, so I rode him only once each week. But, the point was more to have a fun outing and maybe try and get some higher scores toward our year end awards. I’d only shown Faxx under 3 judges at schooling shows during the year, and I had 3 high scores, and a 63%. I was just hoping to get a higher score so I could drop the 63%.  Despite his light work schedule, Faxx had been working really well. I think he finally finished growing, and his balance is beter!

I found a battery-operated flashing Christmas light necklace and used electrical tape to attach it to an old browband, and pinned fat silver tinsel onto a red saddle pad. It was going to be quite cold (in fact, there was frost on my truck and trailer that morning) so I wore a Christmas turtleneck and a red down vest with my white breeches. As a last-minute touch, I grabbed some jingle bell earrings and put them on. Unfortunately I did not think at the time how much noise they would make with every step Faxx took! LOL!

Faxx was quite energetic when I got there and I lunged him first. When I got on him, I had about 15 minutes to warm up. Faxx is usually pretty laid back but he was feeling quite ‘perky’ due to the cold weather. He was still a little fresh when I had to do my first ride.Worst was our entry and halt. He’d always had trouble with that, but lately he’d been nailing it at home. Old habits die hard! He skidded to a halt and immediately went ‘splat’ on his forehand and threw his head up. Sigh. 😉

It got better from there, tho, and he was connected enough that I could give the rein, and he actually took it!  I had 20 minutes between rides and I opted to stay on him since he was still pretty fresh. I worked on getting him a bit more connected, and despite again going ‘splat’ at the entry halt – he worked better and was rounder and had more suspension.

While I waited for our scores I shopped at a vendor at the show, and fed Faxx “cookies” I’d brought from home. He had a ‘front row’ view to all the activity and seemed to enjoy the show except when Santa made an inpromtu appearance. When Santa walked by his stall, Faxx ran to the back of his stall! Maybe he was afraid he was on the ‘naughty’ list for dumping me back in October??? 😉

I got my score for Training 1 and it was a 73!  And then I got our score for the second ride and it was an incredible 77%. That’s the highest score I’ve ever gotten. I do think the scores were a bit generous – but spectators were all coming up to me and telling me how incredible Faxx looked. I saw the judge on a break later and she repeated what she’d written on his second test sheet “Absolutely gorgeous!”

It’s been a long learning curve, figuring out how to ride Faxx. I’ve been riding him a bit more than a year now.  He’s my most talented horse, but also the trickiest to ride. Not because he is naughty – it’s just the way he is. But he is more than worth the time it’s taken me to figure it out!

 

A frustrating and surprising 2009

In true “Equi-Nerd”* fashion, I actually have written “horse” goals each year. (I might be making more money if I wrote down “career” goals each year.)

The #1 goal for 2009 was to earn my Bronze medal on Fling. It actually has been a goal for many, many years – but never before has it actually seemed attainable in a specific year. But between my trainer being out of the country for several months last year, incredibly hot weather, trouble with confirming the flying changes, and having two 4-year-olds to acclimate to life as show horses, that did not happen. It was especially bittersweet since the USDF Convention was in Austin this year – easily driveable – and I always said if I ever earned the stinking thing, I would go to the Awards Banquet and pick it up in person. Missed the ‘window of opportunity’ on that one, too. Another goal on my list, and not attained, was for Faxx to win a Championship under saddle in dressage at the Arab/Half Arab Sporthorse Regional show in July. He had a disappointing (for him) show, earning only Top 5s in-hand (he’s been Champion two years in a row), underperforming in the first two dressage classes, and only finally pulling off a good ride in the last one, earning a Reserve Championship with a 67. He is a horse that even the judge said should be scoring 70s consistently. He did pleasantly surprise me in the Sporthorse Under Saddle classes, earning a Top 5 and a Reserve Championship in fairly large classes.

So, I was feeling a bit like a ‘failure’ this year until I thought about the good things that happened that were NOT on my “goals” list.

In June I took Faxx to the June HDS Recognized Dressage show – his first recognized, Open dressage show. Some friends and I had signed up for the USDF Adult Team Championships, with our team name, the “Alvin Chipmunks.” (We all live in Alvin, TX!)  Faxx turned in a 71% in one class to help our team WIN the team championship, and Faxx wound up the CHAMPION of the entire team tests! He got a huge ribbon, and we had to go in the big arena at Great SW Equestrian Center and do a ‘victory lap.”  Despite having NEVER been in there before, he handled it like a pro!

Faxx also earned the last of the points he needed toward his AHA Legion of Merit (+), then with his titles from Regionals, also earned his Legion of Honor (++) – an incredible feat for a four-year-old! Plus, he is just a few points away from his Legion of Supreme Honor (+/), a title that took Lisa almost a decade to earn.

He was high score and champion of several schooling shows during the year, and last week I found out he is the USEF Region 9 Horse of the Year Champion, Half Arabian Training Level Amateur!

Even more than the ribbons and titles, though, is the progress he’s made in a year of riding him. When I first started riding him, he was very reluctant to even take contact, and when he did, it was tenuous and inconsistent. It was difficult to get him ‘through’ enough to sit his trot – and his trot is so big, he HAS to be through or it’s completely impossible!

The last time I rode him – despite minimal riding the last two months – he was immediately taking soft, steady contact, I could sit his trot and he responded immediately to subtle aids just from my seat!

I had no goals with Faeryn listed for 2009. I had really no idea what to expect of her. Overshadowed by her more flamboyant (in looks and movement) half-sibling, Faxx, I really tend to underestimate her.

I should have known, being Lisa’s daughter, not to underestimate her.

In only her second outing at Training Level in April, she was the Training Level Champion, and high score amateur. In her next two outings, she was also high score of the show. In September, I took her to the ISR/Oldenburg inspection and did the Mare Performance Test with her. With just 5 practice sessions learning how to jump, she scored an 8 for jumping ability and was the Mare Performance Test Champion, with a premium score of 72. She was also the high score mare in-hand, and is now entered into the Oldenburg Main Mare book! I was moved to tears to see my little bay horse, who I literally pulled into the world, with an $800 half Arabian mother, compete and win against horses with much grander pedigrees. As I wrote in an article about the inspection for the ISR/Oldenburg newsletter – Never underestimate that most important quality that the inspectors cannot possibly see or score – heart!

And then, of course, the Schooling Show Championships yesterday – I was very proud how Faeryn got over her ‘spooks’ and just went in and did her job. Again, the ribbons/titles mean less than what we’ve accomplished together. I am especially proud of the fact that I started Faeryn under saddle myself, and have had much less coaching on her than I have with either Faxx or Fling. She is very uncomplicated to ride and train, and I think she is just going to get better as she moves up the levels – much like her big sister Fling.

And that brings me to Fling. It has been too easy this past year to be distracted by the “new” toys (Faxx and Faeryn) and neglect Fling.  But every time I ride her, she makes me smile. She tries so hard, and in her own way she is very athletic. She is not as impressive a mover as either Faxx or Faeryn, but she makes up for it in her love of her work and the way she is so focused on what I am asking her to do.Not only that, her trot has gotten so light and airy, she is in complete and total self-carriage. It is like driving a high powered sports car! Now, the challenge for 2010 is to get her stronger in the canter so she can achieve the same sort of self-carriage there.

I have to remind myself that Faxx and Faeryn have years ahead of them – Fling is 10, and if I’ve learned anything from horses, it’s that you can not count on anything. 2010 will be Fling’s year. My one and only goal will be to show Fling and earn the Bronze – and have FEI in our sights for 2011. I know she has the work ethic and the athletic ability to get to Grand Prix, as long as we can continue to have access to good training.

And last, but certainly not least, I applied for, and received, the “Gifted” Scholarship from the Dressage Foundation. Named for Carol Lavell’s great Olympic partner, the Hanoverian gelding, Gifted, it is a $900 training grant given to one adult amateur per year per each USDF Region. (Sometimes when I tell younger dressage people, or non-dressage people I got the Gifted Scholarship, they think I got it because _I_ am gifted. LOL! Nothing could be further from the truth!)  The fund’s purpose is to allow amateurs to take a ‘training sabbatical’ away from the daily pressures of work, and life, and be able to completely focus on furthering their dressage training.

I will take a week and haul the horses to Marta’s and stay up there. The plan is for Fling to stay all week, each youngster to stay part of a week. I will also ride horses Marta has in training, who are doing higher level work than I am. I really need to ride a horse that’s really trained to do flying changes! I also would like to ride one that can piaffe and passage. I originally planned to do this in January if I got the grant, but I’ve had so much time off riding, I need to spend at least a solid month riding them before I do my training week.
And now, if it would just quit raining, so I can start working on making it happen!

*I admit, I stole the term Equi-Nerd from my junior high school best friend, DeLinda. We recently got reacquainted and that’s how she described us as 13-year-old horse crazy girls – and the label still fits!

Faeryn at the Schooling Show Championships

I hated to spend the time (it’s a 45-minute drive one way) to do it, but I hauled Faeryn over to the championship venue Saturday afternoon to school. I suspected they may have a lot of ‘scary’ stuff that was not there the last time she was there, and I was right. There were banners along one side, closest to the horses, and when she saw those, she stopped dead in her tracks and said to me, “Uh HUH, I’m not goin’ in THERE!”  I had to use my whip (carried especially for this situation, since I normally do not ride with one) to convince her to even set one dainty hoof inside the arena. Whereupon followed much protesting of getting close to them, but after about ten minutes, she was ‘eh’ about them. Mission accomplished.

I could have left her overnight, but I didn’t. She’s not been overnight anywhere except two occasions – both hurricane-evacuation related, and both times with her close buddies. Once when she was just two months old, and since she was with her mom, Lisa, who had “been there, done that” she was not the least bit stressed. This time, not so sure. So I hauled her home, did the “fairy godmother’ makeover on her that night — brushed/showsheened tail and combed out, washed socks, finished pulling and braiding her mane (for the second time in her life) and clipped her ‘goat hairs.’ (Faeryn is one girl who could really benefit from some horsie electrolysis!)

I prayed she would not rub her braids out overnight. Thankfully, she didn’t.

Sunday morning was foggy, clammy and cold, so she got to wear her pink sheet and into the trailer she went for another road trip.

She was very laid back on the showgrounds – finally! I did not even have to lunge her before I got on her – a first for away from home! Fortunately there were just 3 other horses in the warm up arena. All the outdoor arenas were quite literally underwater. I have never warmed her up in the small covered with other people before – I always go outside. That is the downside of having your own farm – my horses (and me!) are not used to having to deal with other horses in the arena! She warmed up well and now I just had to hope that no trains came by – the show arena is about 250 feet away from double train tracks and she about came unglued in the warm up arena at the last show when one went by. Our “warm up” ride, Test 2, was first. I went in and she was totally boogered by a truck sitting at E (for the judge) that had not been there the previous day. “Oh great,” I thought, “this will be a waste of time.” Fortunately, by the time she went around a few times, she was OK with it, just as the judge blew her whistle.

She was very responsive and fairly through – not as ‘dancy’ as she is at home – still have not managed to get the same level of work away as at home, but I was very proud of how focused she was, considering how boogered she was at first. She was so focused, she didn’t bat an eyelash as a barn cat streaked right in front of us on the long side about halfway through the test. I saw it coming and laughed out loud when it, did, indeed, cross our path, as did the audience watching.  She ended up with a 67.7 average from the two S judges and I was happy – and she also won the class by a large margin. BUT, not every horse entered in the Championship was entered in this class.

Our Championship ride – Test 4 – was 3 hours later. Lots of time for her to rest and chill. This would actually be the first time she’d done test 4 in competition, since you could qualify using any test of the level.

Unfortunately, there were three horses being lunged in the warm up arena – the size of a small dressage arena – when I had to warm up for our second test. She could not get focused and she was very unstead and ‘looky,’ especially at a very large horse cantering around.

It showed in our second test, and mentally, I was not as sharp, either, being quite distracted her her looking at things, and from hearing a huge CRASH from somewhere on the showgrounds, behind me. I knew when I did my final salute that it probably wasn’t good enough to win the class.

She got a 65%, and the winning horse had a 65.4%. But I was still happy with her —  65% average from two S judges, on her first time to do Training 4 – and she is just 4. Not too bad at all. She earned Reserve Champion Training Level Amateur, and her 67% was ‘reserve high score’ of the show, for which they gave us a lovely neck sash. The other good thing is there was a photographer on the grounds, and a video person. I have NO video of me riding her in a show!  Or pictures, really, either, except from one schooling show, her first, last year. The photographer probably took 200 pics of her, some during our tests, some posed between classes, and then some with her ‘loot’ at the end. I bought the entire DVD of them for $100. She’ll mail it to me when it’s ready and surely, surely, out of that many photos, there will be some good ones I can post! 😉

In other news, I also found out last week that Faxxsimile is the USEF Horse of the Year Region 9 Half Arabian Training Level Dressage Amateur Champion!

Coming tomorrow – a look back at 2009 – and goals for 2010.

Big Day Tomorrow

The first annual Houston Dressage Society Schooling Show Championships are Sunday. Faeryn is signed up to go. The weather has been awful (of course, now that I have time to ride!) but I’ve ridden Faeryn anyway, picking our way around the driest spots in the arena. We could only trot a few days. I was also gone last weekend to the USDF Symposium – more on that when I have time.

Faeryn is working well – a lot will just depend on luck. The venue for the schooling show championships has very clay-ish footing in their outdoor arena. The show will be in one covered arena, and they have another covered arena for schooling – but Faeryn is not used to working in close proximity to other horses – just about the only BAD thing about having your own place – and if I am unable to warm up outside in relative solitude – she will be tenser than ideal, and we probably won’t really warm up the way we need to.

The forecast called for more rain today, but so far, so good. If it does not rain today, I think it might be doable. Just hoping the owner has been dragging the heck out of the outdoor!

She is the last ride of the class, which is a good thing. I am taking her over tomorrow to school in the ring since she is still ‘looky’ in strange arenas. Even tho she’s been there before, I can’t count on her being ok going into it ‘cold.’ She could stay overnight, but since she’s never been off the farm overnight (except for hurricane evacs, when she was with her buddies)I don’t think now is the time to try it!

I also had time to ride Faxx last night and he’s really gotten quite good – without being ridden much the last month. LOL! So maybe that’s the key – ride him as little as possible! I think he’s grown and gotten more uphill – his trot was very easy to sit, he stayed connected and was not ‘fussy’ in his contact at all. He is going to the last schooling show of the season NEXT weekend. And I have a diabolical plan for this “christmas” show where one is encouraged to dress in holiday attire. Let’s just say it involves battery powered Christmas lights and a blinking Rudolph nose. 😉 Stay tuned!

Time Flies Even When You’re Not Having Fun

I have been AWOL from practically everything in my life since the first week in October. Faxx has been ridden about 4 times, and Fling and Faeryn an equal amount. That’s because I have been wearing my other hat, “Accidental Landlord.”  I have a cute 1920s farmhouse on 5 acres, set up for horses. (Go to www.alvinhouse.com if you want to see it.) I bought it in 1995, and my dad and I put a lot of sweat equity in it to make it the cute little pink dollhouse it is today. When I got remarried and we bought our own place in 2002, I really could not part with it. So I lease it out. Mostly it’s no trouble, and I have people standing in line to lease it – but sometimes “things” do happen. My most recent tenants, who’ve lived there almost 3 years, problem-free, apparently ran into financial difficulties because they just moved out 3 months before their lease was up, with no notice.

There is always a lot of work to be done between tenants – improvements I want to make, or things that just need to be done that you can’t expect tenants to do. This time it needed exterior painting, which, since it’s completely frame, and has the original wood-framed windows, is a big job.  So you know what I’ve been doing.

But, thankfully, Sunday I handed the keys over to the new tenant and hope that now life can get back to ‘normal’ – whatever that is.

Curiously, during the last two months, despite being ridden very minimally, I finally got Faeryn to some more schooling shows, where she was high score of the show at two of them.  The last time I’d shown her was in April and she was a WILD CHILD in the warm up. Perhaps being six months older helped, because she was quite good and focused at these shows. A little scared of the judge’s stand and spooked at that – but can’t blame her because I was not able to get her into the actual arena before our test. I had one piece of very good news during my ‘indentured servitude,’ as I am calling it — I got a call from the Dressage Foundation, notifying me that I am the Region 9 recipient of the Gifted Fund Scholarship for Adult Amateurs for 2010! It’s a $900 grant that I will use toward taking all three ‘kids’ to Marta’s for a week of intensive training. I had hoped, if I won it, to do that in January – but as it is, I need about a month of good solid riding on them before I want to do that. So maybe February.

The times I’ve ridden her, Fling has been quite good and I’ve even been brave enough to throw in a few flying changes. Her canter still needs strength – but I am very happy with her trot work.

I got on Faxx after probably two weeks of being off last week and he was quite good – responding to just my seat aids, and much more willing to take contact and much steadier in the contact. Sometimes time off can do as much for them as if you’d been riding them the whole time!

Tomorrow a friend and I are off to the USDF Symposium – we skipped the convention as too $$ and required too much precious vacation time for me. I debated about going, and missing ANOTHER weekend of riding – but decided in the long run, the Symposium might do more good for me!