Tuesday, June 2, 2009


Lesson day! And the first lesson after the first show.

I admit, I still have a little girl's grin glued to my face. Toby beat my expectations by a mile BUT having said that, I'm not blind to the areas where we need to improve. I had set fairly simple goals but they were big goals to my future of showing Toby. Mainly, getting Toby into a trailer without him going berserk inside of it. I've seen it happen, it's ugly and well, I don't wish it on anyone. But with good planning, good understanding of my horse, we had zero issues! Not one! Just getting him in a trailer and to the show without him blinking an eye was enough to put me into a GREAT mood. Add to that his game effort at a new discipline and you have an owner with a little girl's grin glued her face.

So today, when Betsy came over for our lesson we rehashed the show, my goals and set new goals for the next show.

One of my concerns after watching the video was my leg and body position. I grew up hunt seat and I can't seem to shake it. But Betsy told me something today that completely made sense. She said she'd rather work on me getting Toby into a proper frame than telling me to "put my leg back, sit up, etc." She said that my position will come together in time but it's most important that I learn to ride my horse than just look good on my horse. I thought that was an excellent point.

Speaking of riding my horse, Toby was fantastic today. He's so much more fit and interesting to ride. He seems very happy and he has a lot of confidence in me. Today we rode in our outdoor arena which is adjacent to a paddock that had a visiting Fjord mare with her nursing foal. Toby was completely convinced the baby was actually a horse eating monster. The baby just wanted a buddy to play with so she raced up and down the fence whenever we came by. I made sure to keep Toby's attention on me and he settled right down. This is what I mean by "he has a lot of confidence in me." He trusts me and therefore will listen to me when his instinct is telling him to RUN AWAY. After awhile both Toby and the filly foal became used to each other and the novelty wore off. At about that time Toby really relaxed and began to engage his hind end. Wow! He had so much energy and power. It was cool to ride. I looked at Betsy at one point and mouthed out OH MY GOD! It was so much fun! He was on the aids, round, on the bit, and the energy was phenomenal. We ended the lesson after that and told him how awesome he was.

I am just thrilled with the horse that Toby has become in a short amount of time. He's been a blast to ride. I never dreamt he could offer this much. I just hope I can make that happen in the show ring for everyone to see. Isn't that what we all hope for?


  1. What a wonderful post, Wendy, and I agree with you completely! It’s “all about the horse,” and the fellow who sold my horse to me said, “Every horse needs groceries and a job to do.” Sounds like Toby is enjoying his job, and he is obviously putting his groceries to good use ;o)

    My OTTB has many of the same issues you are facing with Toby. While Huey loads and travels like a champ in my 2H straight load bumper pull, he is a worrier. THIS time we will go to the Place Where Life Ends, so much of my time is spent making sure he knows he has "Been Here Before And Lived" or he has “NOT Been Here Before But Will Live."

    I've had issues with his back (he was born with a roached back and made it worse at the track rearing up and flipping over--NEVER with a rider and never with anyone behind him, but "up and over" just the same), and we are now on a regular acupuncture schedule. He also gets three tablespoons daily of an herbal mixture called Body Sore in his high-protein (muscle-building) mixture of alfalfa pellets, soybean pellets, rice bran and supplements. He is much more willing to go on contact. After we've warmed up, he heaves this very audible sigh, which means he's not worried anymore, and we can get to work.

    The sigh is new—he has always "held his breath," but I think he's over that because his back feels better--and he does too.

    I too come from a hunt seat background. Betsy’s "get the horse on contact" approach is what my teachers are using on me, too. I ride with two instructors who have different backgrounds and approaches. Their verbiage is different, their exercises are different, but the common denominator is ME--they each help me work through my problems establishing a firm contact and "driving the horse into a receiving hand."

    My goal is to show and be competitive in First Level by next year. The California Dressage Society is very supportive of the adult amateur rider, and I want to take advantage of some of the shows and programs that are especially for AAs like me. There is the CDS Amateur clinic (one member from each chapter in a region attends a four-day clinic with a noted trainer, with fees paid by the rider's chapter); the RAAC (Regional Adult Amateur Championship) with two divisions--Novice for riders that have never competed in a CDS Year-end Championship, and Elite, for those that have competed in the championships; and the championships themselves.

    The chapter I belong to holds four shows a year--two schooling shows and two rated shows. All the facilities are nice and fairly close to me. I live in the High Desert, which is a minimum of 40 miles from the nearest trainer or show venue.

    Keep up the good work and keep writing about your lessons! I enjoy reading someone else's journey ;o)

  2. Great job! Keep up the good work.