Saturday, May 29, 2010

Odds and Ends :)

What a busy couple of weeks! My adorable little son turned SIX last weekend and we had a wonderful weekend as a family and with our extended family. Lots of t-ball and fishing! My seniors are getting ready to graduate on June 6, so classes ended on May 19. Then we have had "senior activities" which I think is more tiring than just teaching all day! LOL! So far, so good. No major drama or meltdowns and overall the kids are handling themselves with grace and poise...well as much as can be expected from 18 year olds! :)

So, with my seniors doing their final exit exhibits, I have been at school very late (6PM) almost every night. Thankfully it has been crazy hot outside, so I don't feel bad about giving Ms. Dreamy some well deserved time off. And most nights when I have been able to squeeze in a ride, it has been after 7PM and a bit cooler.

The horses are all doing very well. They were all a bit pudgy looking lately, so I have cut down everyone's grain. LOL! They are also now out on the grass pastures for part of the day, which is great. (And probably contributed to the pudge....LOL) Normally I cannot start weaning them onto grass until much later in June, but we had grass growing in March this year! They still spend time in their "all weather" paddocks (read: dirt) but within the next few weeks will be out on grass full time. I am crazy careful about introducing the lush pastures! Also, I have some time to relax over the next few weeks before our next show in Skowhegan....the three day Downeast Horse Congress!!! I am hoping for a LARGE turnout of Standardbreds.....the more, the better! :)

Dreamy has been happy to alternate dressage work, trail riding, and basic western work. I have been doing a lot more hacking than I did last year, and it shows. She is surprising me more and more each day with her good attitude and abilities. No longer do we have the fights we used to have under saddle when I ask for something harder or new. Our simple changes are getting better each day. Leg yielding at the trot is no longer a fight and her trot long and low is leaps and bounds beyond last year. Her neck reining is perfect and her jog is almost there. She REALLY likes the no contact thing when we ride western.....LOL! I think I could make her a peanut roller if I am not careful... :P

I still have not dragged out the jumps, which I ought to do soon. We have only used cavalettis so far this year.

Reva is still happy to work. She is solid walk/trot and I have cantered her here and there. I am more concerned with developing correct trot work right now, as once we canter she still just wants to only canter. LOL! But her canter leads are 100% to the left and about 95% to the right. We have a clinic coming up in June which should be fun. I am thrilled every day with her willing attitude, calm demeanor, and sensibility. She is truly a find. :)

Sparky is doing well too! She shed out almost all of her hair again this year, which is awesome for being Cushingoid. She needs a bath, which is the plan for sometime this weekend. I want to start driving her once I am out of school and have time (finding time to work two horses is crazy enough right now!) but I am not sure what she might think. She truly loves being a pasture puff and I do not want to stress her joints or anything. We shall see! :)

Tomorrow we are headed to pick up a manure spreader! Very excited! (Only as horse girl would say that.....LOL)!

Also, I just randomly won a Back on Track contest the other day! LOL! I won a $100 gift card, which was such a cool surprise! I bought a set of hock boots and the no bow leg wraps! They should arrive on Tuesday.

Well, that's the update. I realized today that without show updates, I was not writing anything! LOL! Thankfully, there is not much going on here, as we are just relaxing this long holiday weekend. Lots of fishing and riding planned. :D Not much else! I love being able to spend lots of time with my two boys (and the horses, of course!) after such a busy few weeks! :)

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Kerrits Ambassador

I was recently accepted as a Kerrits Ambassador! Click here for more info!

I applied on a whim through Facebook. I was pleased to get a packet of information the other day saying, "Congratulations....."

The ambassador program is new and evolving, and I am excited to be a part of it! Kerrits defines an "ambassador" as a rider who is passionate about riding horses, a loyal Kerrits customer that "connects" with her Kerrits apparel and wants to help promote the brand within the equestrian industry. In the letter, they tell me they want this relationship to be "mutually beneficial" and they want me to "be and feel a part of the Kerrits family."

They sent me a cute pair of wool riding socks. They say that as the program grows, they will be offering more items to me and creating programs for me to participate in!

So cool!!! :D


I am supposed to write reviews of products, connect with consumers on Facebook and Twitter, give feedback and submit ideas for future designs, keep them updated on my horse adventures, and of course, wear my Kerrits proudly!!! I will also be given discounts, given logo apparel, and will be known as a Kerrit VIP.

I really like my Kerrits clothing. I have a few pairs of breeches and a white ventilator jersey...and of course now the cute riding socks. I am excited to purchase more apparel in the future and to be a part of this program.

Friday, May 21, 2010

NEDA Spring - May 15, 2010

CHECK BACK FOR PICS! Waiting for the professional ones..... :)

Dreamy and I rode at NEDA Spring again this year. NEDA stands for New England Dressage Association, which is one of the largest and oldest GMOs in the country. Last year, read about it here, I was so very scared, as it was our very first EVER USDF recognized dressage show. Add that to the fact that we had to drive through Boston and we still had to use the junky old work truck.....yeah it was a nerve racking experience!

This year I was not nearly as nervous. Sadly, my bestest horse buddies do not show dressage, so I had to go alone. :( And none of the folks who originally said they could come along as support could make it. Of course! :) So I bravely left the farm at 7AM, by myself with Ms. Dreamy. I apparently have nerves of steel, as I had to navigate the Tobin Bridge and the tunnels of Boston on my own. Truthfully, I like driving my rig and the only thing that scares me are the other idiots on the road. And in Boston, they have NO idea about horse trailers and distances and stopping times, so it was interesting for sure!

Going down there was a lot of traffic but it flowed right through the city with no issue. NEDA Spring is held at the Marshfield Fairgrounds and there is really no good way to get there without going on 93 through Boston. Coming home it was a little more backed up, but luckily we never went below 10 mph, never got stopped in traffic, and the tunnels were not as bad as they could have been. :)

I arrived with plenty of time to warm up, or so I thought! I got up to the warm up ring for Training 2 with about 30 minutes until my test. It was pretty warm, Dreamy had been on the trailer for three hours, and I knew she would only need about 20-25 minutes to warm up. I never like to get her too tired before her test.

Of course, they were running ahead of time AND the rider right before me was eliminated. I wanted to wait until my actual ride time, which you are allowed to do in dressage, but then the ring steward reminded me I was the last rider in Training 2. UGGG.....I really did not need a judge waiting there for me, getting annoyed. I still had 12 minutes before my time, but I figured I might as well just get it over with. :( I knew we were not as warmed up and ready as we could be. I was also hot and knew I might as well just ride. Suck it up, baby!

The test was not that bad, but I knew we were not as through and bending as well as we could have been if I could have warmed up maybe for that extra 10 minutes I lost. Oh well. Our judge was Susanne Handler, R judge, and she scored us a 61.071%. For our first dressage show of the year, I was pretty impressed! The test is mostly 6s and 7s, with 5s on our canters and an 8 on our free walk. We did get a 6 on our left lead canter depart and NO FOURS! Nothing was less than a 5 and that was just the canter circles. Pretty decent. The only comment I received was that my horse was strung out in the canter. We placed fifth in the class, as they split juniors and seniors. Sadly, they combined open and adult amateurs....oh well.

We finished Training 2 before my actual ride time of 11:27 AM....LOL! We went back to the trailer, I got her all untacked and cooled out, picked everything up, changed out of my riding clothes, and then just chilled for a while. It was not even noon time and my Training 4 test was at 2:08. I planned to start getting ready at 1PM. I ate lunch and then took Dreamy for a walk.

Thankfully, although it was mostly sunny, there was a nice breeze all day. We headed back up to the warm up at a little past 1PM. I wanted to get her really steady in the bridle and using her back. I did a long slow warm up which seemed to help. We were scheduled to ride in the "Ann Villani" ring, which is the "FEI" ring at NEDA Spring. They have four rings running at once, which is pretty cool. I was excited to get to ride in the "big kids" ring...LOL!

Dreamy was totally on the aids and ready to go when we entered for Training 4. I knew we would do well, maybe not break 60%, but be close. She was sooooo good! There were a few bobbles, with the canter not quite as smooth as Training 2 test, but oh well. We did the best we could have done for that day.

I was super surprised to see my scores.....the test said 60%!!!!!!! But then I realized I had TWO tests for Training 4. Hmmm.....I asked someone at the score table about it. OH DUH.....in the big FEI ring, there are TWO judges! LOL! One at C, like usual, and then one at E. The guy at the scoring table asked me what I thought that judge was doing at E. I told him I never noticed her...and that it probably was a good thing! I did not think they ever used two judges at Training level, but he said that because it was a qualifying test, they did. Okie dokie! LOL!

So, while the judge at E Lois Yukins, FEI "I" judge, did score us 60%, the judge at C, Gabriel Armando, also an FEI "I" judge, scored us with a 58.400%. So the averaged score for our Training 4 ride was 59.200%. I was bummed to not actually break 60% on the final score, but I was happy to see that 60% from judge Yukins!!! I wish she had been the only judge, and then the ride would have counted for qualifying! CRAP! :( Oh well....at least I know we can do it! We surprisingly did end up with a fourth place ribbon!!!

I was impressed to get good marks and comments from two FEI "I" level judges. We scored all 7s and 6s again, with more 5s on the canter in the Armando test. Yukins gave us more 6s. I was happy to get two more 8s on our free walk! And the stretchy trot circle, that I have been working SO HARD on......we got two 6s! Last year I got 4s and 5s....LOL! So hard work pays off!

Armando wrote that Dreamy was very obedient (with an exclamation point!) but needs to show a better connection over top line into the contact. Yukins wrote "I am quite impressed with your patient and correct aids and contact. Your horse is lovely and needs better balance in the canter." NICE! They both judged us very fair and were right on in their comments.

Overall, NEDA Spring was a great experience. It is a well run show that I like to attend. I am proud to have braved the long trailer ride by myself. Dreamy was a champ and showed me we really are progressing in our training, even if they are VERY TINY baby steps. I never said I was anything but an adult amateur! LOL! I wish I could have also shown on Sunday, but for one thing the stalls have no ventilation (they are permanent wooden stalls with no windows) so Dreamy would NOT be able to breathe. She only does OK in show stalls with the bars so there is lots of ventilation. Plus, the beginning of May is a busy time in my life, both for my family and my job, so going away for two days just cannot happen. I am thankful I was able to go on Saturday though...my horse is sound, I am healthy, I could afford to do a show like this....the list goes on. Going for one day is better than not being able to do it at all! LOL! And even better, my husband has been fantastic. He had to handle not only a t-ball game for our son that day without me, but also t-ball photos! LOL! ;-) It is not easy keeping a 6 year old's t-ball uniform clean for more than two seconds!!!!

Go Dreamy mare! :)

Friday, May 14, 2010

MHA Ocean Communities Classic Horse Show - May 8, 2010

NOW WITH PICS! LOL! Thanks DR for taking and sharing the photos. Still waiting for the professional photos......

After a week of gorgeous weather, Saturday May 8 dawned gray and rainy. :P Aw, well. This was the first of three Maine Horse Association (MHA) shows that have a Standardbred division this year. Last year I was able to get a division of four classes....this year I was able to get it expanded to seven! We have a 2-gait and 3-gait open division now!! This was exciting because I felt ready to move Dreamy up to 3-gait. Sadly it is not split into junior/senior yet, only because of lack of entries. Maybe someday we will have plenty of entries for both age divisions. :)

I was showing for the day with my favorite show buddy ST. We arrived at almost the same time at the local show grounds, which is about 30 minutes from my house. Because of the rain, ST decided to keep her horse in the trailer. That was fine with me, and I wanted to do the same thing.

Ah, funny how your horse can remind of you of their idiosyncrasies so quickly when you have forgotten! LOL! Dreamy is a wonderful horse in many ways. But she is VERY ritual orientated. She is not able to go with the flow if things do not go exactly how she thinks it should. I try my hardest to NOT make my barn chores and feeding schedule too much of a regime. I mean, I do feed them at around 6:15 AM and then again at 5PM. But I am not crazy to the minute....maybe one day I feed them at 6:10 AM and the next at 6:17, so on, so on. I like a schedule but not a regiment.

Despite my attempts to be organized without being crazy, Dreamy likes her buckets in the same spot, her stall, her paddock, her trailer tie, everything to always be the same. So, when we got to the show, I left her on the trailer to sign in as usual. It was not raining that hard, so I decided to take her off the trailer and let her chill with her hay bag until we had to show. ST left her gelding McKeever on the trailer to get him ready, as she was in the first class of the day (Showmanship) and I was not until class 5 (Standardbred In-Hand). Dreamy loves McKeever and McKeever loves Dreamy. There are not many horses that either of them actually like, so it is sort of cute.

Anyway, Dreamy decided that she Could Not Handle This. She could NOT be tied to her trailer while McKeever was inside his. This was Wrong to her. So instead of dealing with her uncharacteristic blowing, snorting, and pawing, I took her for a walk. I made her walk in an organized way, no grazing and moseying. She continued being sort of an idiot, which again is uncharacteristic of her. So I did a semi-lunging thing with her on my long lead rope, making her move and think about something other than being an idiot. I never lunge horses, for my own personal reasons, but I knew I had to put her to work in an organized fashion for a few moments. It worked...within a few moments she was fine. "Oh OK, fine, I will calm down..." You could visibly see her relax. So funny.....you never know what might come off that trailer! LOL! And with only a 30 minute trailer ride, she had not tired herself out yet! :)

And it is funny.....ST and I show our horses all the time together. They are not "herd bound" by any means. You can leave one and take the other to the ring without any problems. McKeever does "look" for Dreamy this year, since we are not in the same riding classes, but not to the detriment of his performance. And Dreamy was not upset about being near McKeever or not. She was simply confused about the lack of "normal" routine for a show. Usually we unload and tie to the trailer. Why was McKeever still in the trailer?? When we have been at horse trials alone, she is fine with hanging on the trailer in the rain. But like I said earlier, she gets an idea of how things are "supposed" to happen and she expects that. (This is why I love my mares. They are as opinionated as I am! LOL)

Here we are waiting for ST and McKeever to do their first class, Showmanship. Dreamy has finally chilled out. :) We are on the left.


There were six Standardbreds in our In-Hand class. I was hoping there would have been a larger turnout, as this show is in southern Maine at the local show grounds. But six was better than none! LOL! I had no idea how we might do in in-hand, as it totally depends on the judge. Yes, I know how to show a horse in-hand fairly well, but some judges love her conformation and others do not. If they go with the "typical" Standardbred look, she is judged low. But if the judge likes a Standardbred who looks more like a Morgan, TB, or another breed.....then we do well! LOL! It is always a crap shoot to me. And truthfully, I am not a big fan of doing in-hand, but when it is part of the Standardbred division, I will do it. But even at Nationals, I have never done in-hand. :)

Here we are in the line up. Dreamy was clean, but man, she is not wanting to completely shed out yet! According to my farrier, no one wants to shed out this year. Maybe it has to do with the weird weather??? Anyway, she looks so funny with a 4397446 different colored coat! :P And the rain makes her little face look so gray! Seriously, she is not that old looking.......yet! :)

And her back/spine looks really funky in this pic. She has prominent withers, but her back looks a whole lot better than this! :)



We ended up doing very well! I had a hard time really trotting her out along the long side, with the deep mud in the ring from the rain as well as my ANKLE! It feels almost back to normal, but running in the mud made it hurt. We placed second with one judge and FIRST with the other! :)

McKeever placed first and third. We both won cool bags! LOL!


Next was Standardbred 3-Gait Pleasure and we had three entries. We tacked up and warmed up with no issues. Dreamy was totally back to her easygoing self. :) I was worried though. Not about Dreamy, but about the footing in the show ring. It was MUDDY and deep. Granted, it did not look slippery. Dreamy usually does not do well in bad footing. (Funny aside...I overheard the judge say to another competitor in my class during the lineup that Standardbreds don't mind the mud because they race in anything! Yeah, well, not all of them are mudders. :P)

Anyway, the warm up ring has new footing and did not have a single puddle. So I went into the class nervous about the footing. And to tell the truth, I felt a little nervous about falling! :O After the spill I took at UMaine when Dreamy tripped in the ROCKY riding ring there, the thought of her losing her balance at the canter in the mud made me nervous. Not so much about the act of falling off....whatever. I was worried about my ankle. If I fall on it again before it is fully healed from the sprain, I am in a mess. :(

So, my tension made me forget how to think about my position. I miscued her into the right lead canter and we blew our lead RIGHT IN FRONT OF BOTH JUDGES. Sweet. For some reason, we can still have issues with the right lead from the walk, so I have to be Perfect in my aids. It is my fault, not Dreamy's, but my nerves got the best of me and when I heard "canter", I just asked without really setting her up correctly.

I blew my chances to place well. But it was OK, because the two other riders were juniors who have done a great job with their horses. It is always fun to see the kids' faces when they "beat an adult." So I knew that fair was fair. :D We placed third for both judges. :) The worst part is that one of the judges had to come over and whisper to me, "You know, had you not gotten the wrong lead, you would have won that class." Yeah, great. I hate when judges feel the need to do that. Do you think I am not aware of my mistake?? LOL! :)

My Bampie (maternal grandfather) came to watch! He raced Standardbreds for many years, as did his father and grandfather. I love getting to see him! :)


Then ST and I had a long break with many other classes and a 30 minute lunch break before our next class. ST and McKeever had done well in their 2-gait pleasure class. We untacked and took care of the horses, opting to put BOTH of them onto ST's trailer together to eat from their hay bags. Dreamy thought this was great. :) ST and I got lunch and ate in her truck, with the heat on full blast! :) I felt tired and my ankle hurt from the cold. It was only 49 degrees outside! With the rain and slight wind, it was downright raw!

Soon it was time for Standardbred 3-Gait Equitation. I felt much better about the ring and my ankle. Funny how I just needed to get back into the ring for one class and I was OK. Remember the last time I rode at a horse show was the command class where I fell! So I guess I just needed that one ride to remind me I was fine. I briefly warmed up Dreamy, more concerned about getting our leads as she was happy otherwise. The class ran quickly and we placed first from both judges! YAY! :)

One of riders in my class had asked for our equitation and championship class to be held back to back. They were supposed to be about eight classes apart. I truthfully did not mind waiting, but it was nice to be asked if I was OK running them one after another. I gave my two blues (and candle and umbrella "trophies" to ST on the rail) and declined a victory pass, as it was wet and I have done plenty of those! :) The judges both thanked me. We went right into our Standardbred 3-gait Championship class. It was run quickly yet again and the judges' cards were again unanimous.....we were the champions! :)

I did take a victory pass, because there was a professional photographer there. :) The earlier pics are from a friend who only stayed for the in-hand. Hopefully soon the professional photos will be posted. I am sure I will order a few. ;-)

I was very pleased with our performance! :) If we do as well at Downeast Congress, which is our next MHA show in June with a Standardbred division, I will not move Dreamy back down to 2-gait (walk/trot) for hunter under saddle again. If we ever do western, I might, but not for hunter classes. Even though you are not usually allowed to do both 2-gait and 3-gait at most horse shows, at Standardbred Nationals in NJ you ARE allowed to show in both. This was cool last year because I was able to see how Dreamy might do in a walk/trot/canter class, but now that we are showing in 3-gait up here and doing well, I will not move back down. Last year I kept her in 2-gait hunter classes and it was the right thing for her. This year is different. She is a different horse; I am a different rider.

So if all goes as planned and we attend Nationals in NJ in August (YAY!), I will only do 3-gait hunter pleasure classes. There are many other Standardbreds who really do belong in 2-gait. I certainly do NOT need more ribbons. I have too many already! LOL! Seriously, I am running out of space on my tack room walls. And not only will doing less classes save me money, it will save wear and tear on my horse! Doing all the 2-gait AND 3-gait classes last year at Nationals was a lot of work! I was exhausted and overheated and I am sure Dreamy felt the same way. I will do 2-gait in the western classes if that is something I pursue in the future. But for now, I am happy that I waited and now we are ready for 3-gait! :)

BIG THANKS to MHA and all the people who put on the shows. I have enjoyed being a member and supporting the Standardbred division. It means a lot to me! :)



Saturday, May 1, 2010

Heather Blitz Clinic - May 1-2, 2010

Day One:

I was very excited to ride with Heather Blitz at the gorgeous Pineland Farm in New Gloucester, ME. The clinic was put on by the Southern Maine Dressage Association (SMDA). I may be a true adult amateur with very low level dreams (LOL) but as a teacher I value education. Anything I can do to further my riding education is important to me.

I was a bit perplexed that I was paired with a young rider who was on a Grand Prix level horse. My horse had Training level things to work on...what in the world did a Grand Prix level horse have to work on at Training Level? LOL! I had a dream last week that Heather ignored Dreamy and only would instruct the Grand Prix horse....LOL! So funny how our dreams show our fears....

Anyway, day one was fun. We warmed up while Heather watched us and then she focused on us as riders, rather than the horses. We took turns being picked on, ha ha ha. I really have no idea what Heather said to the YR with the fancy horse, because while Pineland is an out-of-your-mind multimillion dollar facility, they apparently have not invested in a very good sound system. I could not understand anything of what Heather said at the other end of the ring to the YR, nor could I understand much of what she said to me right when she was next to me! :( That was the only drawback to day one. Pineland, get a new system! Or tweak the one you have so it actually sounds like a person's voice, rather than someone talking "underwater". SIGH

Heather has been heavily influenced by Mary Wanless and her biomechanics of riding theories. I admit everything she said to me today was totally the opposite of how I have been taught to ride for the last 25 years! LOL! Here is a great article by Mary Wanless, about Heather, that explains these theories much better than I can do on my own.

I have been riding for 25 years. I know that they way a rider moves affects how the horse moves. But it was amazing, humbling, and slightly embarrassing to find out how disconnected I am to my body! LOL! Heather started by asking me where my seat bones were pointing. If I thought of them as flashlights, were they pointing straight down, forward to her front legs, or back to her hinds? I had a hard time isolating my seat bones! Seriously! I ride with them pointed back, I arch my back, but I also try to "sit up" and "put my shoulders back."

The funny thing is, Heather said that all of these things I have been told are actually making me use my body completely improperly, that is to say, not influencing the horse as I should be.

Hmmmm......

She said that even as a short 5 foot tall rider, I can still be elegant and tall like a six foot rider like herself. She asked if I had ever seen pics or videos of her ride (But of course!) She looks like she is growing tall and stretching up and down. NOPE. She is actually engaging her core and has more of a feeling of being squished.

Ummmm, what......??

Yeah, most of the first day was spent with me wondering what in the heck she was asking me to do! LOL! The shape Heather wanted me to ride in was so weird and wrong feeling. She put my stirrups up, which felt even more weird. I told her I felt like I was about to go over a jump. LOL!

She wanted me to think of "bearing down" with my core (stomach and back). She wanted me to lower my sternum, after YEARS of being told to lift my sternum. It was weird.

Here is a pic of Heather. Granted, she is in passage and her heel has lifted. But look at her body. Perfect line from ear, shoulder, hip, heel. Look at the angles of her joints. She is in perfect bio mechanical alignment with her horse.


And I have never been accused of looking THAT good on a horse! LOL! But Heather told me there was hope. That I COULD ride like that.

This squished feeling means that you have engaged your core. I have been trying to do that forever, but until someone like Heather can actually put it into words, I have been unable to actually do it. It is not that I have been taught how to ride incorrectly (far from it), but instead no one has been able to actually verbalize how to make my body do it!

My seat bones had to be directly facing down. I needed to be able to take the horse away magically and have my feet land perfectly without toppling forward or backwards. I needed to raise my stirrups to get the correct 45 degree angle in my thigh. I was bouncing around without any real balance. My balance was up in my chest, not down in my core. I needed to get my thighs "weighted" and on the saddle.

Wow, there was a lot for me to do! At first, I felt so overwhelmed, but it was soon obvious that not only was Heather good at explaining things, she was VERY patient and kind. You never know when you ride with a "big name rider" what they might act like. Plus, here I am on a Standardbred. I never know what I might get for attitude.

But Heather was awesome. I left my day one lesson feeling like I had a TON to think about but feeling very excited for day two. I still was not 100% sure what Heather wanted, but I knew I needed to know!

Day Two:

I was eager to ride with Heather again. I had spent time the night before on Mary Wanless' website, looking at her articles and remembering what Heather had said on Saturday. I sat on my seatbones and practiced keeping them straight. It was amazing to think I truly had no idea how to properly move my body. Sometimes I need to hear, then see something and even read it to actually "get it". I know I am a visual learner. :)

On Sunday, it all started to click into place. Already Heather said I was much more "toned" in the saddle. She said to think about my body (and Dreamy's) as a stuffed toy. Most of us have places where the stuffing has leaked out. But we want to keep our bodies like a brand new stuffed toy, evenly and firmly filled. Analogies like this gave me more stability and solidity. Heather reminded me that very few riders have this "brand new toy" feeling naturally, but we can all learn to imitate it.

She also said that I had a very flexible back/spine. Now one would think this was a good thing, right? WRONG. I was too wobbly. It is not that I needed more tension, but more stillness. Rather than think tense or stiff, I thought still. I had to figure out how to combine feeling my muscles firm and "stuffed" but also stay relaxed and loose in my joints.

It was amazing to suddenly be sitting properly on my horse. Suddenly, instead of just being on top of her, we were really moving in sync. All of a sudden, all of Dreamy's bobbling and occasional lack of connection was gone. Instead, I was riding my horse without any clutter or tension. We were in complete connection and it was effortless. It was crazy, really! LOL!

The thing that really made me understand was when she pointed out that my shoulders are not connected to my spine. Hmmm.....so when I have been told to put my shoulders back, it was incorrect to lift my sternum and stick out my chest. But so many riders do that! The analogy that worked for me was to think of snapping my sternum and my bellybutton. All of a sudden, I was sitting absolutely straight in alignment with my spine "neutral." I tend to want to hollow my back. Then she told me to snap my shoulder blades together. With my stirrups up, suddenly there was more weight in my thighs and less in my heels. So I practiced in front of the mirror in the Pineland indoor. Wow, while I felt like I was leaning forward and totally squished, I was actually sitting tall and elegant in the saddle. I was not behind or in front of the vertical. I looked.....well.....elegant! I looked like that photo of Heather above! :)

Sadly, I did not really meet the goals I had set for this clinic: work on the right lead canter and practice the stretchy trot circle. But MAN, did I learn something! Our canter did improve and all I did was sit on my horse differently!!!!!! Heather apologized at the end, when we never got to work on the stretchy trot and really did no true exercises, etc. for the canter. But I told her that what she did teach me was worth so much more than a few more exercises to do. She reminded me that in the canter, until the horse goes right, the rider cannot sit right; but until the rider sits right, the horse will not go right. So it is a catch-22 of sorts, but also I did find that as soon as I cantered in my new "snapped" position, and kept my back STILL, Dreamy's canter got bouncy. Like she actually had LIFT. Heather said she thought her canter looked pretty good.......I assured her that it was not normal!!!! LOL!

I thanked Heather for her time and patience (and sent a nice email to the SMDA board member who arranged the clinic). I jokingly asked her to come back next weekend....LOL...and better yet come over to my barn each day to watch me ride. WOW, I just hope I can continue riding the way she had me ride. I was riding correctly for the first time ever and my horse was through. She was supple. She was free of tension and was completely connected. It was amazing. :)

I hope I can ride with Heather again someday. It was well worth the time and money...but next time I am going all out and paying for a private lesson! LOL! :D

Hopefully there will be some pics coming. I did not bring a groom or anyone, so I had no one taking pics with my camera. But some of the SMDA members had cameras.

I know that I did not describe everything as well as I could have. It was one of those things that you had to feel. Had I been in the audience, auditing the clinic, I highly doubt I would have understood much of what Heather said. I needed to feel it, to actually see my body doing it, and see my horse respond so well. :)

PS- And my ankle held up really well! It it 99% healed, just a bit of stiffness and slight swelling left. :)