Monthly Archives: October 2010

Arena OFFICIALLY done!

Although my arena has been done for a few weeks now, I had one major job yet to do – lay down railroad ties around the entire perimeter to prevent erosion of the base and sand. I had 64 of them delivered two weeks ago, but had to find someone to help place them – and do some digging around the perimeter to get them in place and level. They weigh between 100 and 140 lbs each.

So today we hired some guys and spent the entire day moving and placing the rr ties. Fortunately I could carry two at a time on the front end loader, and that made it easier. But, still, it took from around 8:30 until 4:00 to get it done. I am whipped – I spent most of the day on my feet and did a bit of digging myself. I’ll take a picture of it tomorrow and try to post it. This is the third arena I’ve had built, and I finally feel like I have a “professionally” built one.

And, the championships are next week and nobody got ridden today!


Regional Champs next week, and listen to that little voice!

We’re a week out from Regional champs and I am afraid to say it – both Faeryn and Faxx are working really well. It was a gorgeous day yesterday – I lunged Faxx as usual and then got on him and he felt very strange at the walk – could hardly get him to take more than a step or two and then he would stop. Last fall he bucked me off pretty spectacularly when I got on him straight out of his stall one morning without lunging him.  I got on, he took one step forward and then reared straight up into the air, and then as soon as his front feet hit the ground he started bucking in place. It is much harder, BTW, to stick on a horse who is bucking in PLACE than it is to stick one that’s going forward and bucking. I stuck through buck #3, and the bucking strap BROKE and I went flying. As I laid on the ground, still holding the broken bucking strap, assessing my various body parts and their status, I remembered he reacted the exact same way the first time I put the saddle on him. So, from that day forward, he gets lunged at canter both ways, just 5 minutes or so – to warm up his back.

Last night part of me just wanted to boot him forward, but something did not seem right. He felt very unwilling to go foward, and he felt like he was walking on eggs.

So, I listened to that little voice in my head, and got off, and lunged him again, about 2 minutes each direction. When I got ont he second time, he stepped out smartly in his usual walk.  So, that tells me there WAS something wrong. It could have been the saddle pad stretched too tightly across his withers – I noticed that and loosened the girth and pulled it up when I got off of him. Or, his back still could have been cold. I am glad I gave him the benefit of the doubt, and didn’t just assume he was not wanting to work.  Then we had a lovely ride – his halts are much, much better. And amazingly enough, I now get better work from him in sitting trot than rising trot.

It was almost dark by the time I got to Faeryn and I turned on my arena lights for the first time since last winter. It is always ‘fun’ to ride them under lights the first time of the season (and one of my lights is burned out – the one down by the ‘scary’ end, of course.)  I fully expected a spook-filled ride, given those two things.  But I was surprised. Faeryn was focused, business-like and did not spook once!  Her canter departs are better, and I am getting better about riding the canter/trot and the trot/walk transitions – pushing her foward through them so she does not dump on her forehand. She still wants to lean on the reins and/or go with her neck too low at the walk, so I used leg and an occasional tap with the whip to get her more up in the walk. I did a lot of trot/walk transitions to get her trot more animated,and also did work on my centerline halts. She did about three in a row that were absolutely perfect – square in front and back. She has been  leaving her right hind ‘out’ so I have to concentrate on using more right leg, a bit farther back, to encourage her to step up  – but at the same time not let her actually swing her haunches left because of my stronger right leg.

I took Fling for a lesson Wednesday evening and got her trot much more improved and we worked on trot half pass, which is coming along, and then worked on canter half pass, which I felt really was awful, but turned out to be not as bad as I thought!  And, in the ‘this is why you need a ground person’ file – she was slightly leading in haunches in all the half passes, which did not feel that way at ALL to me. It still feels to me like she does not have enough bend, especially at canter, but Marie says that isnot the case – she has plenty of bend. So that was a nice surprise – fixing the haunches leading is a lot easier than fixing not enough bend! 🙂

Faxx redeems himself; a lightbulb moment with Fling

It was windy again tonight and I wondered if Faxx would be spooky again — but whatever demons were after him on Saturday, and at the show, had packed their bags and moved out of his little horsie brain! He was picture perfect, as he usually is.  In my effort to ‘raise the bar’ in his training, I asked him some tougher questions tonight. 1. Can you do a ‘baby’ turn on the haunches?  Answer: I can almost do a ‘grownup’ turn on the forehand.   2. How about shoulder-in?  Answer: A little harder than TOH,but with a little work, I’ll have it nailed.  3. Haunches in? Answer: Why do you WANT me crooked when you’ve been bugging me to be STRAIGHT for the past two years????? LOL. Faeryn had almost the exact same answer to that question!

 I was just a bit surprised, but it seems that most of lateral work 2.0 came ‘pre-installed’ on Faxx. I am also loving my new arena. I am not sure how the clay base will hold up to the torrential rains that are most assuredly coming this winter, despite the almost-drought we are in now, (and that’s why I built the larger round pen with a rock base – my ‘go to’ place when the arena is not rideable)  but it is by far the best arena I’ve ever had. I will never buy bank sand (that orange sand) again. The sharp sand -a coarse, angular sand – is expensive, but well worth it. I also think it will resist blowing and getting dusty, since it’s much heavier grains, and also will not get washed away as easily. The next task is to get those railroad ties in place around it before the rains come, and get water faucets out there so I can water it – it definitely needs it now – it has not rained since I put it in  — about a month ago!

I rode Fling tonight, too. She has not been nearly as happy with the footing in my new arena as Faxx and Faeryn. I think because she is a bit smaller, it’s more work for her. It’s supposed to be 2 inches deep everywhere, but there are still some deeper spots where it’s probably 3 inches – and with this sand, it’s on the deepish side. (I have been hand raking and removing sand from the deep spots.)  Part of the problem is she has not been being ‘honest’ in carrying herself. So even though I hate to be a ‘meanie’ with my horses, we had a ‘discussion’ about self-carriage tonight, and she got better, and then I had a lightbulb moment myself – I am sitting much too heavily on her. I also need to get in the habit of sitting like Debbie Bowman told me in the clinic – more up on my pelvis and not on my butt.I never had a chair seat – but I was sitting a bit too far back and ‘driving’ her downward too much with my seat. So, between Fling saying “ok, I can carry myself better” and me realizing I was sitting wrong — suddenly those two things converged and she became light, connected and in super self-carriage. And gee, the footing wasn’t an issue at that point, either!

Naughty, naughty Faxx!!

I took Faxx to a schooling show today to show First level again. He warmed up well and was nicely connected – his back was really up and his trot was easy to sit. It was windy and he had one spooking moment in the warm up arena when another horse spooked and went flying toward him. He settled right down and went back to work.

However, when we got in the competition arena — a place he’s been many times, he had two large spooks in our First 1 test. I got him right back after both spooks.  He still managed to get a 67%.

I made a point to get him back in the show arena during a short break they had between my rides and he was fine. However, he spooked at something along one long side and for the rest of the test I could barely even get him around the corner or even make a halfway straight line down that long side. At one point, he just slammed on the brakes just past C and we had a small ‘discussion’ about him continuing around the corner and down the long side.

I have no real idea what exactly got him boogered — that is very, very unusual for him. He’s been shown a lot, and I don’t recall him ever spooking like that before. It was windy and there is a large vine that hangs from the top rail in part of the ring and it was blowing in the wind – so that could have been it. There were also many people sitting/standing right by the rail on that side. But who knows what horses spook at?  They obviously see things (monsters, ghosts, ghouls, lions, tigers, etc. etc) we don’t see!!

So, his score for that ride was a 53% – a world record low for him. I will say we managed to use almost all the numbers in the scale except for 0, 2, 9 and 10!! LOL!

Now I am really hoping this is not just some new evasion he’s dreamed up — but I don’t think so. He worked very well in the warm up arena. But I am a little worried about the Regional championships, since he will be showing in an arena he’s never shown in before, and I will have a very small window of opportunity to get him in there before our test.

Putting the Steffen Peters symposium stuff to work

It’s been a busy week and I haven’t had a chance to ride much. So today was the first time I could really concentrate and try to put into practice some of the stuff I learned at the Symposium last weekend. Faxx and Faeryn were the ‘victims’ today. I didn’t get far with Faxx since it was a) very windy and b) I had a large stack of railroad ties delivered last week and stacked next to the arena.  Despite the fact Faxx (and everyone else) has been investigating them all week in the pasture, today was the first time he got to see them from inside the arena. Oh, horrors! They look SO much different from INSIDE the arena than from OUTSIDE the arena. In a very un-Faxx-like fashion, he actually spooked and bolted with me. It’s pretty impressive when he bolts. It took me about 60 feet to get him stopped, and from then on out, he was convinced any and everything at that end of the arena was out to eat him. Also very un-Faxx-like. So, despite the fact we have a schooling show tomorow, we didn’t get much ‘real’ training done – but I did win the battle and he at least consented to work quietly at that end of the arena by the time were were through. I did get very animated and collected gaits from him, though!  When life gives you lemons…..

Up next was Faeryn, who is usually the one who is tres spooky when it’s windy. Interestingly enough, she was quite focused and didn’t bat an eye at the stack of railroad ties, or even seem to notice the wind.  We warmed up at walk, but not long and low. I noticed that Faeryn wants to fall on her forehand and go behind the vertical worse at the walk than any other gait. So I made a concentrated effort to refuse to ‘carry’ her and make her step up more from behind and get lighter in the bridle. I then did some lateral work in walk – leg yield with her head to the ‘wall’ to really get her hind legs engaged, shoulder-in and leg yield and some ‘baby’ turn on the forehand.I’m  trying to look forward to Second level – which I hope she’ll be ready to do at schooling shows by next spring. Her canter has been problematic lately and i’ve been trying to diagnose the problem. I took her to Marie on Wednesday, and in my effort to get her bent around my leg and going from inside leg to outside rein, as usual I’ve overdone it, and I’ve pushed her shoulders out too much and made her crooked. A bit of renvers was the prescription. And I also have been trying to ‘micromanage’ the canter too much instead of putting her where she should be and expecting her to stay there without constant help from me.  Her canter was much better today – both directions. So then I worked a bit on walk/canter transitions and canter/walk transitions. Of course the canter/walk is harder, and she had two or so trot steps most of the time- but you have to start somewhere.  Her canter felt so good I tried the 3-loop serpentine where one loop is done in counter canter. She handled it pretty well both directions. the most common thing when they start this is to try and speed up during the counter canter portion of the serpentine – but she didn’t.

Like many amateurs, I don’t ask enough of my horses. I’m happy to accept what they offer and don’t ask for more. As Steffen said, when you’re schooling – school for the 9 – don’t school for the 6.  If you’re only getting 6s at home, you’re not going to get 7s at a show.  When I rode Fling the other day I did think about this – and started asking for more bend and more impulsion in the half pass, and also half pass at a steeper angle.

I also took Steffen’s advice to heart and worked on some lengthenings/mediums but without ‘throwing her away.’  I think because of working on the canter transitions, her trot was better.

Faeryn already has her winter coat – as does Fling – and as a result, with our warmer weather this week, she sweats pretty easily. Today we were both quite sweaty when we finished!  It was a really good session and I am very pleased with the quality of work I’m getting out of her on the new harder stuff.

Faxx is in the top 20 in the nation!

The USDF Year End Awards became final today.

 Faxx is officially:

  • Top 20 in the USDF Amateur Awards at Training Level nationally – just squeaking by in 20th place with a 69% median – more than 200 horses qualified at this level
  • In 16th place nationally in Vintage Cup Awards (50+) – among open and amateur riders
  • 1st place in Region 9 in the Adult Amateur awards
  • In the Arabian Horse Assn All Breed Awards, he was
    • 2nd place Training Level Adult Amateur
    • 3rd place Training Level Open
    • 1st place Training Level Vintage Cup

Faeryn had a 64.879 median. This was her first year showing at recognized shows, and her first show, where she got a 61% and a 63% really hurt her median. She also only had 8 scores, so was not able to drop any low scores. She placed:

  • 4th place in Region 9 Training Level Adult Amateur standings
  • In the Oldenburg NA Awards she was:
    • 6th place Training Level Adult Amateur (just missed the official placing by one position)
    • 4th place Training Level Vintage Cup

They are both competing at the USDF Region 9/GAIC/SWDC championships Nov. 4-6 at the Great SW Equestrian Center in Katy.

Notes from the Steffen Peters symposium

Steffen Peters Symposium 

Dallas, TX 

Oct. 16-17 


Steffen Peters was so laid back I wanted to question whether he really was German. Maybe he’s lived in California so long he’s completely taken on the California surfer “no problem, dude” mentality. 😉 


While he was demanding of  horse and rider – the demands were not heavy-handed or delivered in a “my way or the highway” attitude.


He got on two horses during the first day of the clinic and the transformation he created in one of them was nothing short of amazing. The horse was a nice horse, but not a ‘wow’ horse under its regular rider. But Steffen got on, and with about ten minutes of  quiet riding, the horse’s frame was totally different – he lifted his back, his neck came up and he looked like an International prospect!  Now, the horse did protest a little “this is really hard!” he seemed to be saying – but stopped protesting within just a few minutes and seemed grateful to be ridden so sympathetically. And unfortunately, Steffen is such a quiet rider, I couldn’t SEE him actually DOING ANYTHING to achieve this small miracle.  He had a good sense of humor, too. After riding the second horse, and then handing him back to his owner, he said, “Now, all you have to do is ride like me.”  That brought a huge laugh from the crowd!  


His philosophy was to calmly and methodically make everything black and white to the horse so they would immediately know when they were doing the wrong thing, and to make instantaneous corrections so the horse did not continue to do the ‘wrong thing’ for more than a stride. It was not something that any of the demonstration riders were used to doing. “You missed a training opportunity there,” was Steffen’s way of saying that the rider did not make a correction quickly enough.


Another often-repeated theme was self carriage. He said more than once, “at the end of the day, it’s all about self-carriage.” And that it was up to the rider to create that self-carriage and lightness because “the horse won’t do it on his own.” 


He also stressed having a ‘playful connection’ – test the horse by giving the reins, keep a ‘conversation’ going with the reins so the horse does not get ‘stuck.’  Riders who did not do this were said to have ‘stubborn hands.’  And when they were holding too much, he would tell them,  “you’re accepting too much contact.” 


He wanted the horses at or in front of the vertical but recognized that a horse’s conformation entered into this – if a horse tended to go with his head up (“he’s climbing” is how Steffen told the rider his horse was going above the bit too much) he did not mind if it went behind the vertical for brief periods. However, if the horse WANTED to stay behind the vertical, he would have the rider push the horse forward, or even lightly tap with the whip to get the horse to go forward into the bridle and lift his neck. He wanted the horse to do the opposite of what it naturally offered in this instance.


He also had opinions that were counter to common convention. He was not a big fan of starting out with the horse long and low and stretching. He said he did not want them cruising around on a long rein for ten minutes, and having to take another ten minutes to get them ‘up.’  He said you must find the right frame for each horse and did not think ‘long and low’ was right for every one. He also expressed concern about soundness, saying the #1 job was to get the horse off his front legs/forehand and he did not think riding a horse low and stretching for long periods of time was productive toward that end.


He did encourage riders to take frequent breaks to let the horse walk on a long rein – he said he thought that was helpful to prevent soft tissue injuries – to make sure the horse was not overworked in the same frame for too long.


He also wanted the horse consistently connected at the walk before progressing to trot or canter.


He also thought that each horse learned best in different gaits – generally the gait that was easiest for that horse. Transitions within gaits were used to create self-carriage and lightness. But he urged riders to make those transitions in 2-3 strides – not 5-6. When working on a pair’s canter pirouettes, he would have the rider do leg yields at canter to get the horse attentive before doing the canter pirouette. He also would have the riders ‘refresh’ the canter by riding forward to a bit of lengthening every so often. He cautioned against spending your entire riding session in collection.


Even if you have a young horse, Peters said you could ask for collection. Use movements that increase collection to develop strength – small ‘bursts’ of collection increase strength. A horse does not have to be strong to do small moments of collection. He urged riders to test more advanced movements – to ‘play’ with them – that is the way to move up the levels. For instance, to start canter pirouettes, first you ask the horse to canter in a circle in renvers (haunches in.)  Gradually you make the circle smaller – and eventually you have a canter pirouette. But you can start with haunches in on half a 15 meter circle.


Many of the demo riders used their aids too much – ‘deadening’ the horse to them. He reminded riders that aids are not supposed to support the horse in daily training. He understood that sometimes you needed supporting aids in a test – but you should not tolerate having to use aids every stride in daily training. The leg aid makes them quicker behind, and the horse must respect that. He stressed that the spur was for ‘emergencies’ only. Horses were asked to work off the rail so they would have to stay straight without the ‘help’ of the rail.


Interestingly enough, Peters said he was not a big fan of counter canter. He feels it is unnatural, and he is always looking for exercises to create the best canter possible, and he does not feel counter canter achieves that goal. When working in half pass, he said your shoulders should mimic the horse’s shoulder position. Start half pass with the outside leg at girth and start with neck bend and manage the shoulders first.  If you have enough bend in he neck to begin with, you’re less likely to push the haunches out during the movement.

I can now understand how riders like Steffen Peters have horses going GP at 7 or 8 years old.  There is not ONE minute of training time wasted. The goal is crystal clear and the horse is not allowed to take more than one step that is not ‘on the path’ toward becoming a GP horse. It is an incredibly focused method of riding, and, of course, one must be talented enough to immediately recognize and correct the mistakes in the first place!


Whew A lot of info. Although sitting on my butt for two days watching other people ride is not my idea of fun, I really didn’t want to miss the opportunity to watch one of the best riders in the world almost in my own backyard. Sometimes the best riders are not the best coaches, because they have trouble actually articulating what they are doing. Or, they have such a huge ego, they’re rude to the riders.  I am happy to say Steffen Peters can coach and ride, and he was kind and respectful to riders and horses. That’s MY idea of the ideal Olympian.