Monthly Archives: January 2010

Faeryn’s first recognized show


This weekend, I took Faeryn to her first “real” show – recognized, and also her first away-from-home sleepover (except for hurricane evacs, when she was with her buddies.)

Faeryn is definitely the ‘hottest’ of my three horses. Part of that is because she just has not seen the ‘world’ as much as my other two. Faxx showed in hand for two years before even being started under saddle. He was an old pro at showing long before he was started under saddle.

It was a two-day show but I only took her for one day. It was at Great SW Equestrian center, a large, very nice facility. There are five covered arenas (one large enough for two dressage rings) and three outdoor arenas. She was showing in one of the covered arenas, but since Saturday’s rides did not end until 5:30, I could not get her in to see the rings until then.

As “luck” would have it,just as I got her ready to lunge, the freestyle music from the main arena was accidentally piped into every arena and throughout the barn area. At a decibel level that probably would not meet OSHA regulations!  I almost got undone by Neil Diamond’s “Coming to America.” Imagine, if that was the last thing I heard. 😉   Faeryn spun in circles around me when the music started, and I just managed to get the lunge line clipped to her bridle before she took off and hit the end of the lunge line like a swordfish on the end of a fishing line!  Due to the music, lunging her did not really calm her down – in fact, it got her more revved up. I finally gave up and took her back to the stall and got ready to get on her and ride her.

By the time I got her over to the arena we’d be competing in the next day, it was about 5:45 p.m. and not a soul was around. The rides ended at 5:30 – the place cleared out in a hurry!

Poor Faeryn was scared to death. When I got on her, she started backing and backed out of the arena and halfway into a vacant barn before I was able to get her pointed the right way again. It went that way, all the way around the perimeter of the arena (there was a dressage ring set up in the middle) – we went haltingly around…stopping, backing up, whirling around and doing mini-bolts – for probably 15 minutes. It was a very long 15 minutes. And I kept thinking “Gee, if I get dumped and hurt too bad to use my cell phone, wonder how long it will take someone to find me???”  I knew part of the reason she was so scared is that there were no other horses in sight. But I really didn’t have a choice – the show started at 7:30 a.m. the next morning, and even if I got up at 5 and got her in the arena then, there was no guarantee there’d be any horses around then either. Plus, they probably would drag the ring in the morning, and close it until the show started.

 I started Faeryn under saddle myself, and acclimating her to this show arena was scarier than starting her under saddle! Finally, about 20 minutes into our ride, she had relaxed a bit. She was so scared she wouldn’t even eat a peppermint – I gave her one thinking it would relax her a little – she held it in her mouth for probably ten minutes, until, finally, I heard a “crunch.”

Then, when she was starting to relax, two people on horses  came in. By this time, I had gotten Faeryn inside the dressage arena set up in the ring. She did not bat an eye at the judge’s table, or even the sound of dirt hitting the vinyl arena rails as she went by. When I was actually able to canter and trot her somewhat calmly, and she was doing a nice relaxed walk, with a swinging back, I figured I’d done as much as I could for one day. I went back to the stall and untacked her, fed her and ‘tucked her in’ for the night. Faeryn had made friends with a handsome black Dutch gelding behind her and seemed just fine in a strange place. In fact, I think she was quite ‘in love’ with the handsome fellow since the usually-ravenous Faeryn was not even eating her hay, in favor of standing at the back of her stall, mooning over the gelding.

The next morning, I did not know if I was going to get ‘the lady or the tiger” when I got on Faeryn. First I would lunge her. The minute I asked Faeryn to trot on, I knew I was going to have ‘the lady” for the day. No maniacal antics on the lunge line – just a calm trot, followed by a round, rhythmical canter. I was relieved. Still, I wondered how she would be in the arena where she could now plainly see horses warming up just behind it – would they be a comfort or a distraction?  She warmed up easily among the other horses and when it was our time to enter the ring, she was not scared at all – perfectly calm, perfectly obedient. More reluctant to bend than at home, and a little stiffer, but fabulous compared to the night before. I rode a conservative test (and could not believe I went off course in a test I’ve ridden from memory at least a dozen times the past year!) and was very happy when we left the ring.  Faeryn got many pats and peppermints as we exited the ring.

I was a bit disappointed in the score – a 61something – probably the lowest score she’d ever gotten. The judge said she needed to be more forward. She was 5th out of 7. I had two people come up and tell me they were surprised by my low score after watching the test. No matter. I did what I came to do – get in the ring, get through the test without getting dumped. 😉

Our next test was about 2 hours later, and was Training 4. She was a bit grumpy about being saddled for the SECOND time in the same day – and really had to work to get her to bend to the right. She was just coming out of heat and that may have had something to do with that. In fact, in the test, she wanted to counterflex. I felt she was slightly crooked all the way down centerline and could not get her straight. (But I ended up with 7 for that.) Something also startled her in the middle of our canter work because suddenly she was really wanting to take off on me! And, again, I went off course. Really, my brain was quite fried, apparently!  But, she was more forward! I thought this score would be in the 50s. I was surprised to see we got a 62 – and even more surprised to see we’d gotten 3rd in a class of 14!  We missed a qualifying score by 1 point, but that’s ok. I don’t think she will be heading for the championships this year anyway. Faeryn is one of those horses who will do better at the higher levels. I am going to take her to another recognized show for more mileage and then see how she does there. I probably will opt to just train and do schooling shows at first level after that. But we’ll see. She is talented, and very fun to ride. Her canter has improved a LOT in the past 6 months.  I think by the end of next year she could easily be doing second level. At this point in my dressage ‘journey,’ I’m more interested in moving them on up than ‘perfecting’ a level for showing purposes. Second/third level is where it starts to get fun, I’ve discovered.


Super “Post-Lesson” Ride

I rode Faeryn tonight since it’s supposed to rain “again” tomorrow. It might be my last chance to ride her before I haul her to the show Saturday! I also wanted to reinforce what Marta had me do in our lesson last night. It was tough at first – she really did not want to get off my left leg and I was having a tough time convincing her to be forward enough. (I think she is in heat – that’s usually the only time she’s not forward enough.) We worked through the forward issue, and then I could work more on the ‘get off my inside leg!” issue. I finally had to do some ‘extreme leg yield’ to make my point – and after that, she was super!  Suddenly she was really using her inside hind – stepping nicely underneath herself – and her trot got much more powerful, she got rounder and her self-carriage improved about 50%. I was able to maintain this feeling both directions and even at canter. In our canter departs, she is wanting to throw her shoulder to the inside and counterflex her neck – basically disconnecting and ‘unloading’ her inside hind. I was able to keep her bent around my leg and maintain the position through the depart and keep both hands to the inside at canter like I’d been doing at the trot. It was a super feeling and I hope she works this well at the show!

I wanted to ride Fling, but Faxx came home from the vet and I had to tend to his abscess. He got turned out in the round pen – just about the only semi-dry turnout area on the place – but the ‘track’ is still muddy and his bandage got wet and muddy, so I had to disinfect his wound, dry and re-wrap his hoof. Tomorrow he will get a Davis boot over his wrap and that should keep him clean and dry. We’ll be doing this for about the next ten days while the ‘hole’ in the bulb of his foot heals.

Lesson Report

Update on Faxx – My husband took him to our vet this a.m. and left him so they could ‘work him in.  He was just as lame this morning as he was last night. Much to my relief, by the time my vet was able to examine him this afternoon, a huge abscess had blown out the back of his heel! I was so relieved I almost cried!!


Due to “life” intervening, plus an incredibly rainy December, I have not gotten any lessons since the beginning of October.  I broke the ‘dry spell’ this evening with lessons on two of my horses.  My trainer, Marta Renilla, is from Spain, where she competed as a Young Rider throughout Europe. She has had top dressage instruction and has trained and competed veyr successfully at Grand Prix. Even more important, she is a gifted teacher and very compassionate toward the horses. I have been training with her for two years now, and my riding and my horses have improved greatly during that time.


During my last lessons with Marta, she told me I needed to get Fling fitter at the canter, which would help me get her in better self-carriage. So, the limited times I’ve been able to ride the past few months, that’s what I’ve worked on. I discovered that if I let her do a few laps at canter in the round pen before riding her, her back was looser and she was more ready to go to work. Instead of spending 10 minutes at walk, then going to trot and working on canter last, I started working on canter after about 5 minutes of walk. This gave her more energy for the canter work, and, for an unexpected bonus, her trot work was much better after the canter. Since I mainly was trying to improve the canter, I only worked on flying changes only a few times on my own — with varying degrees of success. I have never ridden a horse that was trained to do flying changes, so this has been a big (and ongoing) challenge to have the degree of roundness, collection and self carriage in the canter AND to figure out the aids, and the timing of the aids. Mainly I worked on keeping her on my seat, and got outside of the ‘comfort zone’ of the circle and insisted she stay on my aids on straight lines, across diagonals — all over the arena. At this point I felt like her self-carriage at the canter was finally approaching the same quality as the self-carriage she exhibits at trot.


I was really anxious to see what Marta thought about Fling’s canter. I was really hoping what I felt as better collection and self-carriage was the real thing!


I was thrilled to hear she immediately saw the improvement in both Fling’s fitness and the quality of her canter. And even more thrilled that my ability to ‘feel’ was on target.


We did some trot work and then moved right to canter. I made these notes so I can repeat these exercises on my own since it will be probably another month before my next lesson.


When warming up at trot, don’t let her get too fast. Think more inside leg, doing slight shoulder fore. Start out doing transitions from trot to halt and really use inside leg to keep her on outside rein. Keep leg on during transition to halt and remain on her even through asking to trot forward again.


For flying changes. On left rein, counterflex neck/shoulders slightly to outside, and use left leg to push haunches over a bit. Use INSIDE rein to half halt and get canter round. Do this on long side to confirm, get her listening. Don’t let her ‘run away’ and maintain this position around corners. When this is going well, turn down quarter line, and when it feels good, almost make a ‘turn’ onto diagonal, at the same time asking for flying change. Before change, keep inside leg on her, so she is not ‘surprised’ when I ask for change – to ask for change, shift leg back slightly and use stronger aid.  Hint: Imagine a wall in front of you just before you turn onto diagonal line. Remember to lean back slightly before asking for change. The change is JUST ANOTHER CANTER STRIDE.  Do the same thing on the right rein.  



Half pass

I was having trouble getting her to do canter half pass. Once we were cantering down centerline, I just could not get her to turn her shoulders.  The trouble here was similar to my troubles in the flying change canter – leaning on my leg a bit. Start out at trot…if she is leaning, and not bending, use inside leg/rein to create more bend. THEN, if she is not listening, immediately put her into a leg yield for a few strides, then go back to shoulder-in and then half pass.  At canter, turn down center line, in shoulder fore. Go to half pass – if not listening, go to leg yield for a few strides, then back to half pass. Also, when doing half pass, keep inside leg ON when I go straight, and then keep it on through the turn.


After Fling, I rode Faeryn, who is Fling’s full sister. Faeryn is coming 5 and going other first recognized show next weekend.


Warm up in circle. When she pulls above the bit, keep inside leg on and turn her toward center, maintaining contact with outside rein…then go back to circle.


Keep inside leg on and do transitions from trot to walk. Put both hands to right when going right, ditto for going left.  At same time, keep inside leg on.


Exercise: Do serpentines, slow down at centerline, almost to walk, change leg/hands to new direction, then go forward once she’s changed bend.


In canter, much the same thing. Do ‘squares’ where I think turning around inside leg, and really using outside rein to turn her. Support her with inside leg same as trot, and again, both hands to inside both directions.



Faxx is hurt…..

He came in for dinner three-legged lame, elucant to even put weight on his front right. He has heat in the ankle and some puffiness extending a few inches above. I iced his leg for about 45 minutes and gave him some bute. Hopefully my vet can take a look at him tomorrow. I am hoping it is not that bad and this is just Faxx’s usual ‘woosiness’ about any injury. About a year and a half ago he came in just as lame, and x-rays and ultrasound showed no serious injury, and he was good as new in about 5 days. This is what happens when it rains about every three days. The mud is bad at our place – plenty of places with NO mud and high, dry ground on our ten acres – but of course the horses don’t spend all their time there. 😦

Photos of Faeryn from the schooling show championships

I got my photo CD from the photog who was at the show. And I finally sat down last night and watched my video of my two rides. It always takes me a few weeks to work up the courage.  😉  I had not seen video of Faeryn in several months. And I always forget how light and elegant she looks. She and Fling and are both really nice horses – but very, very different. Kind of like me and my brother – who was 6 feet tall and skinny! Everywhere we go, people are attracted to Faeryn, and everyone tells me how pretty she is. I think it’s because of her pretty, sweet face and her outgoing personality! That, and she views anyone on two legs as a potential cookie donor.  😉

Included are some images from the show –under saddle, candid and ‘posed.’  I especially like the one of Faeryn shot from her backside. I call that her “Betty Grable” pose. Or am I the only one old enough to remember that famous pinup? LOL!


Some very good rides and some “huh?” moments

Although it’s been *&^$) cold, at least it has not been raining. My rule is, in the winter, if it’s dry enough to ride, I ride. So I’ve gotten a lot of riding in this week.

With Fling, I am currently alternating between ” We are going to kick butt at Third level” to “I ride like an overripe rutabaga and should not be allowed anywhere near a horse.” Last week, her canter felt really collected, and her back was really up and I could keep her on my seat while cantering hither and yon around the arena. I even did some large schooling half pirouettes. Sunday I rode and I could not even get a decent canter. And at first, like the amateur I am, I just kept cantering trying to make it better. You know the definition of insanity? Doing what you’ve always done and expecting a different outcome. So finally, duh, I tried to put on my ‘trainer helmet’ and analyze the situation. First, she was not listening to my half halts. The half halts were just not going through. Hmm. So why would half halts not go through? Is she stubborn. No, not generally. Does she not understand? Fling understands perfectly what a half halt is and what’s expected of her. Hmm. Could she be crooked??? Ding ding ding ding ding. Ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner. Not exactly crooked, but leeeaaaaannnning on my left leg. This is a throwback from her younger years – used to be a huge and ever-present issue with her. And now it had returned. (In my experience, many ‘bad habits’ never really go away – they just go into hibernation!)

So, using one of Jan Brink’s exercise, I did leg yield away from left leg, and then picked up left canter, using much left leg and a few ‘thumps’ with my calf now and then to remind her not to lean. It got better, but I was still not 100% happy. Just not as good as a few days before. Not as reliably off my seat and listening to my aids. Eh. Some days chicken and some days feathers, as my grandma used to say.

On to Faxx, who has ‘stepped up’ to a whole new level the past few weeks.Faxx is over 16 hands (as opposed to Fling, who is about 15.1 and Faeryn, who is about 15.2) and I am 5 feet tall. He’s also a huge mover, and historically has been reluctant to take real steady contact with the bit. That combination has made it tough – he could go in and get a 77%, or he could get 58%, depending on the day. Learning to ride him has been a steep learning curve. Even tho I’ve had many horses, even learning to post his trot was a learning curve. And I have had probably half a dozen youngsters I’ve brought up the ranks, so I’m a pretty experienced rider. But I have never had as big a mover as Faxx. It is absolutely impossible to sit his trot unless he’s 100% through and connected. And he can’t be 100% through and connected unless he’s taking honest contact with the bit. And to do that, his back has to be up. It’s taken me a year, but I think I have finally figured out how to ride him. Not only is he taking steady contact, he’s seeking contact. When I get him balanced at trot, I can give the reins and he reaches for the bit and he gets even rounder in the back. It is an incredible feeling. He is ‘carrying’ himself in balance and connection. He is staying connected even through changes of direction through serpentines and figure eights, and I can sit the trot for longer and longer periods. Even more, he’s so steady now, I can start asking for longer and shorter strides at trot and canter. I can use just my ‘core’ to half halt him and he’s listening. He’s a happier horse under saddle.He’s been one of the most challenging horses I’ve ever had, but hopefully the toughest work is behind us now. Plus, he’s definitely worth the effort. He has a really good brain, is not spooky, and also has a fabulous naturally uphill, huge canter. He reliably scores 8s for gaits when I ride him correctly. I rode him through some of the first level movements last night – the smaller circles at trot and canter are not a problem for him at all. The biggest challenge will be keeping my position – sitting stretched up tall, not collapsing in my core, with my shoulders back – throughout the entire trot work. That is essential to keep him connected and through.