dressage · Uncategorized

Lesson Notes: Flexing the Pelvis, Keeping the Lower Leg Still, and Leg Yields

After my review of the First Level tests, I had a laundry list for the barn manager to work on in our lesson, and we tackled a few of the items on there.

So, in no particular order:

  • I need to unlock my pelvis from the rest of my spine and from my lower leg. I was getting it too glued into my spine, especially in the canter. Lots of sitting trot work is in my future to help loosen this. In short, I was too ramrod straight and thus was blocking his back and his forward impulsion. The best ways to think about this were to drape through my shoulders and soften-but-carry with my abs.
  • I also needed to work on quieting my lower leg. The movement that I should have been absorbing in my hips and pelvis was translating down to my lower legs, which were swinging far too much. Thinking about making them sticky to Tristan’s side – not giving an aid, just sticking – helped immensely. So did some detailed conversation about the way I rotated my thighs in the saddle. For dressage, I need to think more rotating up and forward. (For hunters/jumping, it’s back and down.)
  • Finally we took apart the leg yields and I have a couple of notes on those. Number one is strength. He is more reluctant to step under with his right hind than his left. (Nothing new there.) I need to think about incorporating more lateral and pole work to strengthen hocks/stifle/SI to allow him to step under better. The next thing to think about is keeping straightness even in lateral movement. If I’m not getting a quality step over, go back to straightness.
  • To help in the leg yields and in the control over the smaller circles of First Level, we worked a lot on my aids for bending and suppleness. I need to work on making better use of my outside leg when asking for bend, so I can help encourage bend behind the saddle.

In all, a really good lesson. I came away with a lot to think about and work on, but also feeling like we’ve made some noticeable strides forward. He was more forward and responsive and it makes me feel great to work on a fundamental, get it in place, and then feel him surge up and forward through his back. Like now that we’re re-cementing these pieces, he knows what comes next and when I set him up/help him out properly, he seems happy to know the right answer. We had a couple of lovely springy canters, in particular.

I was also very pleased that three days after pulling his shoes, he was quite sound and comfortable! I owe a longer post on how that process has been going, but *knock wood* so far, so good.

dressage · dressage tests · Uncategorized

Summer Plans: First Level

In the spirit of putting things out there and then working up to them: I’d like to enter Tristan at first level this fall in our barn schooling show.

To that end, we’ll be lessoning a lot, working on fitness, and I’ve already broached the idea with my barn manager (who teaches us right now). She thought it was definitely feasible provided we keep working hard at forward.

So I’ve been looking through first level tests with an eye to the specific things that we’ll need to do that are different from Training, and where we are on those.

Photo Jun 05, 9 09 39 AM

plus some photos from last year’s fall show because I think I never shared them?

1. 10m half-circle + full circle in the trot

Okay, we’ve got that! We definitely school it pretty regularly. The trick is keeping it together, of course: keeping up impulsion while not letting his outside shoulder bulge out.

2. 15m circle in canter

We’ve done it. It’s not always pretty. This will require me to really work on that outside shoulder.

Photo Jun 05, 9 10 27 AM

3. lengthening of stride in trot and canter

Ummmmmmmm. Nope. Never really done it. I’ve played with transitions within the gait but more as an aid to adding impulsion. I’ve asked for nice big trots across the diagonal just for fun but never with the kind of discipline that a true dressage lengthening wants. Plus, it’s Tristan, anything that’s even vaguely more energy will always be our sticking point.

4. leg yield

We have these down COLD, we do them basically every day, whew, finally something I feel good about. I mean, there’s still loads that can go wrong but I have done this horrifically and perfectly and every way in between so I know how to take them apart and fix them again.

Photo Jun 05, 9 11 20 AM

5. change of lead through trot

Yup, got this one too, it’s just a matter of polishing it. I am actually pretty militant about doing this on the diagonal when schooling because it really freshens him up to turn down the diagonal at the canter, drop to the trot at x, and ask for the other lead. We probably put more strides in the trot than they want, and I am often focusing more on GO GO GO than I am on light, prompt transitions, but we have the basic concept down.

6. counter canter

lolol we’re fucked. Well, okay, no, we need to work on it. How’s that for optimism? (you guys my horse actively tries to fall over in just a correct lead canter, he is going to mutiny when I ask him to try even harder to balance, sigh) The good news is that it’s First 3 and I can just…not. But I am nothing if not overambitious, so probably we’ll be tinkering with this a bit.

Any advice for me? What was the hardest thing for you to get right when you moved up to First Level? Is reading this making you want to just go gallop a cross-country course instead? Any videos or tips that you found particularly helpful to think about?

house post · Uncategorized

House Post: Terracing the Herb Garden

Finally some real, visible, substantial house progress!

Ever since we’ve moved in, a particular small hill underneath our deck has distressed me. It’s useless. It grows nothing but weeds. It’s a nightmare – even borderline dangerous – to mow. Now, that describes a good chunk of our yard, but this small, discrete piece was something I had a clear plan for from day 1.


Last weekend, we finally did it! And WOW, I am so pleased. For an investment of about $250 (lumber, topsoil, plants) and 8-10 hours of time, I have a terraced kitchen herb garden!

Step 1: we actually spent the most time working out our process. As you can see in the photo above, it involved some temporary stakes and strings to get a straight line.


Along that line, we cut out a small-ish ledge with a shovel (not even that much, honestly; I purposefully didn’t want to do too much cutting into the hill to keep the integrity it had) and then leveled off the bottom board in it.


Then we drove in stakes – 36″ tall, so they’re in the ground to a depth of about 18″. We cut them out of lengths of pressure-treated 2×2″ balusters. We started doing this with a hammer on Day 1, and then that evening I texted around seeking a sledgehammer, and the next morning a friend dropped one off and WOW YOU GUYS I LOVE SLEDGEHAMMERS SO MUCH. It was a night and day improvement over the hammer.

So we screwed the boards into the stakes, which was actually the easiest part. The hardest stuff was making sure everything was level, lined up, secure, straight, you name it. That part was important because it needed to start level and straight, because over time it’s going to get pressure from the dirt behind it.

Then we went straight back for level 2! These are 6″ boards, btw, so that whole three layer front row is 18″ tall. Not huge, but plenty of room.


Ta-da! The next day we added the last boards to the top of that second row. Then we added in the topsoil and the (local, organic, natch) herb seedlings.


The finally tally: three kinds of lettuce, catnip, lavender, basil (SO MUCH BASIL), parsley, rosemary, thyme, oregano, dill, chives, scallions, and then I snuck in zucchini in the top row because I ran out of room in the raised bed. (This picture was taken very late afternoon; the spot gets 8-10 hours of sun a day, and we may also need to remove the branch that’s blocking the light in that photo, so they should do just fine.)


We put in the raised bed the same day, and boy, did I restrain myself. I usually waaaaaaay overplant it, but this year I remembered my the tomato blight wars of years past and gave them more space. So two kinds of tomatoes and bell peppers only in the raised bed this year. Next year, I’ll do another raised bed, and be able to expand a bit.

Here’s hoping it all survives and thrives!


Bel Joeor Metier: Next Steps?

I’m still testing out and adding new products to Bel Joeor Metier, my equestrian-themed Etsy shop.

Right now, I’m at a tiny bit of an impasse. I have three ideas for new products to develop and test next, and I want your opinion on which of them I should prioritize.

#1 is a modification to my existing saddle covers: adding ripstop water-resistant nylon fabric to the exterior, and swapping out the interior fleece for flannel instead. They wouldn’t be “ride all day in the rain” waterproof, but they would be a stylish way to cover a saddle, and if I can figure out the stirrups modification, you could conceivably ride in them in the rain for a short period of time. They’d probably end up retailing around $30 for the straight cover, and $35-$40 for the version with stirrup holes.

Image result for waterproof saddle cover

They might look a little bit like this, only in lots of colors.

#2 is a small but useful thing: bucket covers. These would be made out of ripstop nylon in a variety of colors, with customization (a monogram, a logo, or a particular design) possible. They’d probably end up retailing around $12.50.

Image result for horse bucket cover

#3 is a half-lanyard keychain. These would come with standard embroidered designs for a variety of disciplines, or they’d be personalized with monogram, name, etc. They’d probably end up retailing around $10.

Related image

This design, but not this ugly.

So, internet, which one should I tackle first?

stupid human tricks · Uncategorized

Bad Habit Theater: Rolling Feet in Stirrups

I got new tall boots for my birthday, and I’ve been riding in them consistently for about a month now. (Tredstep Medicis, for the curious; I’ll do a review after some further breaking-in.) They are generally pretty great, but they have highlighted one huge flaw in my riding position.


Can you see it?

Apparently, I roll my feet to the outside in the stirrups. Something about the way these boots are holding my leg and ankle more stable means that rolling my foot to the outside compresses my little toe against the outside of the stirrup and after just a few minutes, starts to hurt like hell.


It’s pretty subtle, but you can see it more clearly in my left leg here.

I think it’s a combination of a couple of things. I am generally on the tall side for Tristan, and I’ve ridden him in spurs for a long time, which means I’ve developed the bad habit of curling my leg up and in to cue driving aids. The way I’ve apparently accomplished that is to weight the outside of my foot, which causes my foot to slide to the outside of the stirrup, which means that posting puts pressure down in the bottom outside corner of the stirrup.

I’m also, admittedly, not as secure in the stirrup as I should be – really weighting my leg down into a dressage length of stirrup. Getting better at that would mean the stirrups move around less, and have less chance to move into that awkward position. There may also be some pinching with the knee mixed up in this whole thing, and I know that rolling my foot like this was also an old flaw with my jumping position – it felt more secure cross-country.

It doesn’t help that my stirrup treads were shot years ago, and are basically providing no grip to speak of.


I’m a bit stumped on how to fix it. I have a few ideas, but would appreciate additional suggestions!

So far I’ve been trying:

  • Consciously working not to curl my leg and foot, which is hard, because it wasn’t something I realized I was doing in the first place. I’m trying to think about weighting the ball of my foot more, aligning my posting through the big toe instead of the little toe. I’m not at all sure that’s the right way to visualize it, though.
  • Looking into replacing my stirrup treads. Right now, I just have basic Fillis irons with rubber inserts that are basically flat. It looks like I can replace them with the same, or “upgrade” to something like this. I don’t love the idea of it, but I also reallllly don’t want to buy new stirrups. (Though, if buying new stirrups would substantially improve my life, try to convince me.)

  • Riding without stirrups. Which, okay, isn’t the worst temporary solution, but it’s not an actual fix for the problem.

Any ideas? Anyone else have this problem?

2018 goals

June 2018 Goals Update

riginal Goals Post

January Goals Post
February Goals Post

Horse Goals

1. Take 6 lessons through the year. – 3/6 done an on track to crush this goal thanks to the new plan of two lessons a month!
2. Ride 3 new-to-me horses. – one of my June lessons will be on another horse
3. Research 3 different retirement situations. – Still at 1/3 and I need to pick this back up
4. Write retirement budget for Tristan. – I actually did look through this and do some thinking about it this month and honestly the conclusion was that as of right now – what I have is good. I can’t get any more detail until we get closer to the actual event. So I am calling this done.
5. Reach goals for horse-specific income stream. (Primarily through Etsy shop.) – This has slowed down and I need to get back on it. One challenge right now is balancing necessary spending for business development with the income that I do earn. I need to lay out some money but have been erring too much on overspending lately.
Stretch: 6. Read and review 12 books about riding on the blog. – 1/12 done still, but it’s almost Black Stallion Summer Series time!

Financial Goals

1. Fully fund Tristan’s savings account (to $1,500) – This is down to about $1,200 after dipping into it for new tall boots and fly season supplies. I’m okay with that. It will go back up shortly.
2. 50% fund my overall emergency fund savings account (to $7,500) – on to $5,500!
3. Track every purchase made in 2018. – Wow, April and May both failed hardcore at this, with unfortunately predictable results. June will be better.
4. Create 30 day wait list for any purchase over $25 (excluding groceries & emergencies). – This is actually still holding strong. It’s the under $25 stuff that is tripping me up – and adding up – right now.
5. Pay off 50% of energy improvement debt. – we’ve paid off 26% of the total
6. Stretch: 75% fund my overall emergency fund savings account (to $11,250)

House Goals

1. Finish dining room (finish wallpaper, skimcoat lower half, plaster upper half, paint). – More progress, and June might see painting!
2. Finish garage in basement (finish strappingput up drywall, plaster drywall, paint floor, clean out).
3. Finish upstairs guest bedroom (strip wallpaper, plaster, deal with ceiling, repaint).
4. Develop plan & budget for preserving mud room mural.
5. Build second raised bed, start seedlings indoors, can/process results of garden. – lololol seeds all died, thanks a lot, work. On the plus side though the rest of the garden goes in this weekend AND instead of a second raised bed I have grander plans.
6. Stretch: Finish breakfast nook room (strip wallpaper, plaster, figure out heating, repaint


Why I’m Not Showing This Weekend

There’s a home show at the barn this weekend, on Sunday. I have the day off, have a healthy pony, and had actually tentatively planned on entering as recently as two weeks ago.

As the entry date got closer and closer, I realized I had not strong urge to show. It wasn’t like I was worried or nervous – one of the nice benefits of having a senior horse is the distinctly low or even nonexistant level of fucks I have to give about proving myself. More like I just didn’t feel any fire.

I thought a lot about where we are right now as a partnership. In some ways, we’re better than we ever were. In other ways, we’re worse.

See, taking him back to fundamentals in re-installing his driving aids and confirming his forward tendencies has been really good overall. Without question, he is moving better and more easily and working on forward has untangled some other problems. And I know that when we start to ease off this boot camp the rest of it will still be there to access, because he keeps trying to offer it. (For which he gets praise and thanks but I don’t take him up on the offer, because it’s not what I want to work on right now.)

On the other hand, focusing on forward means that he’s not exactly in a place I want to show off right now. His best moments are betterr than they’ve ever been! But I honestly feel no need to try to bottle them all up to put into the movements of a test. We have enough ~60% scores and third-place ribbons at Training Level. I’d rather go out and either really crush a Training test, or flop at First Level. (Honestly, I’d prefer the latter.)

There’s another home show in the fall that, all appendages crossed, might be a good time to take a swing at First Level. That’s my goal now.

On a purely “small obstacles that could have been overcome but meh” level, I opted to save the $60 entry cost, and have a boatload of yardwork planned around the house this weekend. 

So here we are: thinking hard about First Level for the fall. The only reason I am even a tiny bit sad to opt out is that I do like to show support for the barn. It’s usually a pretty full show – my entry won’t make or break it! – but still.

Anyone out there in a similar place, or are you ready and eager to go out and show this season?