Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Dressage Gains

"What?  You thought Prelim A would be a challenge?"

I've been meaning to write about Klein's dressage progress lately, then we always have some awesome jump school and I end up writing about that first and think I'll save dressage for later.  We had an awesome xc school last weekend...so I'm going to actually put that post on hold and write about dressage FIRST.

Just like how we have been working hard on specific improvements this winter with our jumping, we have been paying the same attention to our dressage skills.  Klein is noticeably building strength and improving her way of going.  She continues to be more adjustable and lighter in the bridle and I'm beyond excited for that.

I have seriously had to refine the way I ride with my seat, making it even more independent.  Before this winter I would say I was lacking the ability to be quick enough to half halt while still driving her on through my seat which was hindering her ability to really collect her canter.  She would get a bit confused and break to the trot sometimes because I was essentially giving her half an aid and that half was to transition.  Now we have it to where I can half halt her into coming back and up with her canter yet drive her on and not be confusing about what I'm asking.  I can feel her strength building with it too.  I am all about progression and whole heartedly believe in taking a few quality steps of whatever we are working on, rewarding her by giving her a break, then getting a few more quality steps.  Through doing that, she is building strength and the number of quality steps steadily increased to where she's strong enough to continue with the quality steps for as long as I ask.

I know what it's like.  If you follow Denny Emerson, from time to time you will see him post about how you need to realize that training your horse is putting a load on them and asking them to build strength that may not be there to begin with.  Therefore, when it is not there to begin with the horse may seem like it is being disobedient or not trying when the reality is, it's hard work and the horse just isn't strong enough yet.  I couldn't agree more.  I know Klein tries, and she never protests, but I always give her new things in small doses because I know exactly what it feels like.  I've been in the gym for years, I actually was a Fitness Specialist before my current careerfield and have several personal training certifications in addition to a degree in Fitness Management.  I'm a former half marathon and triathlon competitor, and a recovered CrossFit Kool-Aid drinker.  Now I just lift heavy five days a week in the gym.  It is my other hobby, I don't do it because I feel obligated, I genuinely enjoy being in the gym and running myself into the ground.  Not to mention the perks it provides in the saddle, but that is for a whole other post.  I come up with some of my best ideas during the beat downs I give myself in the gym.

Current level of conditioning.

 And because I'm a super dork when it comes to data like this, here is MY data from one of our dressage rides recently.

I know horses get DOMS like we do, it's been proven through testing their lactic build up levels after hard workouts.  DOMS sucks, and sometimes you feel like you need a wheelchair or a personal assistant to dress you or wash your hair.  Knowing this, I cannot even imagine what it would feel like for a horse to feel like that in any way shape or form, and be taken out and asked to work hard again.  You better believe I anthropomorphize the hell out of the this aspect of training horses.  Klein is not a horse that would ever protest either, she's not one that would ever consider dumping me because she didn't feel like doing something, or it hurt.  She would just grit her teeth and try until she couldn't anymore and I think that makes it even more important to be mindful with work load and progression.

Anyway, another thing that I have put some focus on this winter has been getting Klein to relax a bit more over her back in our sitting trot.  She's fairly easy to sit the trot on, but she still needed to relax over her back a bit more and be a little more adjustable in that gait as well.  It's not like I never ride the sitting trot, I do a lot, I have no problem with it, I just needed to build on it because we would be a bit hit or miss with her relaxation over her back.  I needed to actually put some focus on that area.  Again, a few steps here and there.  Well, check that one off the list too because we have managed to build up to riding entire tests in the sitting trot with relaxation and adjustability in the sitting trot.  I have been focused a lot on being distinct with my aids within that gait too.  She feels absolutely amazing lately.

Oh, one more noticeable difference, I haven't rode with a dressage whip for about two months now, and there has not been one time in those two months that I have wished it was in my hand.  Klein's self-going has improved that much.  She has never been a slug by any means, but sometimes just having the whip in my hand was all she needed to just give me a llllittle bit more energy.  Not any more.  I attribute that to using my lower leg more effectively.  Also, all this work has been in her french-link boucher.  I haven't changed any tack, aside from removing the dressage whip from the equation.

I'm proud of us, and I'm excited to see our dressage scores this year.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Horse Hubby Feature

If you don't read or follow Horse Hubby, you should. Timothy Harfield is the mastermind behind it and is the Horse Hubby of international 4* eventer Elisa Wallace (Go Johnny Go!).  A lot of you guys actually headed over to Horse Hubby to cast your vote for The Other Half to make it into the Horse Hubby calendar, and he did.  Timothy also has a podcast called "Horses in the Morning." 

Horse Hubby provides a funny and relevant look into the lives of Horse Hubbies everywhere, and if yours doesn't read or follow, they definitely should! 

I recently wrote a guest post for Horse Hubby, it was posted today.  You can find it here:

In addition to Horse Hubby, you really should follow Wallace Eventing on Facebook as well. Elisa posts vlogs regularly that detail her training and shows around the world.  Her helmet cams are by far some of my favorites.  I love the way she talks to her horses on cross country course, their bond is so evident.  She also is a huge supporter of Mustangs.  She trains them and owns several and won the Extreme Mustang Makeover in 2012.  You may have seen one of her demonstrations at a horse trials near you, or Rolex.  She is an all around shining example of a real horsewoman.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

First Jump Lesson of the Year

I have been waiting for some warmer weather and days that are lighter longer to start jump lessons again.  That time is here.  I have missed riding with our instructor, I really, really enjoy her lessons, actually, thinking about it, she is my favorite to jump with so far, like, ever.

We had a lesson Monday night and it was awesome.  I was excited to show her the improvements we have been working on this winter.  She put us to work like usual.  Part of why I like her so much is she ALWAYS has creative things for us to ride.  She always has gymnastics, skinnies, things in tight spots, jumps with a lot to look at, tight turns, you name it.  I love it because it broadens all of our mental and physical skills.  And true to form, she had a xc corner in the ring Monday night.

We worked on getting Klein a bit more in tune to locking onto the stadium jumps.  She said she knows how forward Klein is out on xc and said we need to channel some of that energy for stadium.  She told me to try posting the canter around the course to help Klein maybe move out just a bit more.  It worked.  I'm going to add that in to our warm ups before stadium or xc schools as a kind of transition cue for her, as well as use it on course in stadium.  She has no problem galloping like she's on the attack of anything I point her at on xc and she needs to have a little bit more of that mindset in the stadium ring, posting the canter seems to help that out by getting her slightly more forward with out messing with the quality of her canter, which is great right now.

Eventually the corner was added in with some stadium fences.  One thing I'm still a work in progress with is counting to and between fences.  I would say I'm 70% consistent, aka not good enough.  Liv immediately caught me not counting and therefore getting four where I should have been getting three from a skinny to the corner.  Sometimes I just have so much fun, counting just flies right out of my head.  Here is how important I know it is, and what a priority I've made it to get better, I wrote "COUNT!" on Klein's breast collar.  See...


When I count, I'm a lot more accurate (duh) and see almost all of my distances (gee, imagine that).  I also got a great lesson on how to ride a corner properly.  I did get Klein to a couple odd spots approaching that corner because of the fence we were heading to next, and I was making my turn a little too tight for it to put us in the perfect spot.  When there was an oxer on the other side of it I wasn't focusing on that next jump enough to put Klein where she should be.  Liv explained it a bit more, we made our turn to it a lot bigger, locked onto the oxer AFTER it and nailed it.

Approaching it like this just makes your life harder if your next fence is that white oxer in the left corner of the picture.  By making our turn wider and approaching it like we were lined up as if the front face was a vertical, we nailed it.


This lesson also helped us adjust our approaches from stadium to xc and back.  There is a derby next month that I'm going to enter us in because I think that will be a great place for us to put those skills to work, and it will just be fun.  Unfortunately it only goes up to Novice, so, we'll enter at that.  I REALLY wish it was Training, but there should be another one at a different venue this summer that will have Training, and we'll hit that one too.

One thing I also really like about Liv is that she makes sure the horse AND the rider are holding up their end of the deal.  If I try to make an excuse for Klein doing something and blame myself, she'll make sure I realize that I could improve by holding Klein just a little more accountable.  It's a fine line for sure, but Liv always sees it and points it out, and I'm appreciative for that too because to me, Klein walks on water, everyone knows that.  Just ask The Other Half, he'll tell you how high Klein's pedestal is, because he reminds me every time I put her on it or make it higher.  But, give me a break, because he also calls her The Princess.

Here are a couple videos with the corner:

A post shared by Stacey C (@jumpingpercheron) on

A post shared by Stacey C (@jumpingpercheron) on

We school xc this weekend.  This lesson was a great prep for a solid Training level school this weekend.  I'm already super excited for next's week lesson too!

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Mares For Life

I have always been a mare person.  My first horse was a mare.  Even after being told by the previous owners that she would never be a good kid's horse, my little, red, QH/Arab mare was this 7 year old girl's best friend in the world that never refused a thing I asked her.  Why would my mom get me a horse that would never be a good kid's horse?  Because that little mare was in a bad situation.

She had been attacked by a dog on her right hind fetlock at the dude ranch (http://www.cherokeeparkranch.com/ - don't get angry, I highly doubt any of the people that were there then are still there, I just wanted to show you the beautiful place she came from) she was a trail horse for.  The damage seemed to be under control, but the dude ranch had decided that she wasn't worth her vet bill and the potential soundness issues that may plague her from that point on, and told the vet he could just keep her and do whatever he wanted with her.  The vet didn't need any more horses, he had plenty of his own.  My mom was one of his techs and despite the "she'll never be a good kid's horse warning" from the previous owners, at this point, what more did this mare have to lose?  My mom had everything to gain by getting her horse crazy 7 year old to shut up with the "I want a horse" speech every single day of her life.  She had been dealing with it since I first learned to talk.  Also, I'm not sure that a warning of any type holds much weight coming from people that didn't feel a young mare was worth her vet bill to them.

I remember the first time I saw my mare.  She was sulking at the back of her run at the vet's office.  I would go as much as my mom would take me with her to see all the animals regularly.  The first sight of this horse is forever burned into my head.  Little red mare, two white hind stockings with a star and strip on her face.  I felt bad for her, but I didn't go near her because at that point I had no reason to, and I had no idea she would be mine.

My mom rode her home to me and that is another image burned into my head, the first time they came into view as I stood at the back of our pasture waiting for them.  I took my time befriending this mare.  My mom also told me that I had to learn to ride bareback first because if I was to ever ride while she wasn't home, I wasn't strong enough to tack her up myself with the heavy saddle I had.

From the first time I got on her were instant BFFs.  That mare that would "never make a good kid's horse" take care of me until the day we said good-bye.  I did all the dumb things you do when you're a kid:  ride standing up, jump whatever type of jump I could build, hang off the side of her at a full gallop trying to do "stunts," you name it, she was game.  Not one time was she EVER nasty in any manner.  Not once did she ever refuse anything I asked, not once did she ever try and dump me, nothing.  She was an amazing horse, and she is probably what set the wheels in motion for all this die hard mares for life stuff.

What's the point of this?  I have been noticing a lot of mare stories popping up across equestrian social media lately, and I love it.  These are my people.  They get it.  They know what a good mare is like, they are like nothing else in the world.  Notice we all say the same thing, once you bond with them, they will try until they can't try anymore.  Look at Klein, that girl would pull me out of the burning building, because she knows I'd do the same for her.  While I haven't had Mochi as long as Klein and didn't get her as a two year old (rather a 9 year old that had multiple owners and next to no training), she is all heart and once I finally figured her out and undid some issues from previous owners she wants nothing more than to do whatever you ask correctly.  She tries unbelievably hard. 

My experiences with mares have been nothing like your typical mare opinion.  They're not moody, they're not nasty.  They're amazing teammates that are 100% with you.  These experiences have made me a mare person for life.  No offense to Wes of course.  He's the exception, obviously, but there is even a VERY stark contrast between Wes and Klein's personalities, despite both being drafts.

In case you haven't noticed the mare trend lately, here are some of the articles:

Geldings No Longer "Preferred": Mares Join the Spotlight

"The main reason that I'm 150% behind mares is that they will give you 150% in return once they trust you. I think they will work harder for you, because once they learn to trust you they develop a bond with you that's completely unlike any other bond with any other rider. You become their person."

"There are a lot of riders that need a confident horse to draw their own confidence from. Mares aren't always an amateur-friendly horse because the amateurs don't always have the education and tact to teach the mares how to be confident and to trust them, all while not taking advantage of them. Many riders often misread their mare's negative behavior and take it personally, which is the biggest mistake you can make with a mare; or any horse."

"'They are not 'dumb boys'" Rigdon Blake jokes. "And that's why people don't get along with them. They don't forget! If you do something that's really special for them and praise them, then they work harder for you, but if you take them for granted in anyway - they're just like women - they don't forget!" 

Full Circle Defies the Odds With Kristen Rozycki

"She’s a mare. I don’t want to say she’s opinionated, but I feel like there’s a constant conversation going on. She’s not a dead-head plug, she’s always checking in and having a conversation with you as you’re riding. [As a young horse] as soon as she figured it out once, she would just do it over and over again. She was always so honest to the fences and always willing to figure out whatever I was asking her."

The Most Unlikley Horse of a Lifetime

"In our entire career together, she never once let me down."  "...she always held up her end of the bargain."

One to Watch: Booli Selmayr Will Tackle Pine Top on a Game OTTB Mare

"Jaeda’s not really that type of horse. She’s very athletic and awesome to work with, but she’s definitely not an adult amateur horse. She’s just too hot. She likes to have her person."

"She’s actually quite sweet, but she’s not going to come up to you and cuddle. She likes to observe you and go, ‘Thank you for your time, move on now.’ She’s a very workmanlike horse, so like, grooming is part of the job. She’ll stand there and be groomed, but she doesn’t want to be fussed with. She wants everything done because she’s on the job all the time."  (Ha, she just described Klein perfectly.)

"She’s a loner. I think that’s why she loves the cross-country. It’s her and me. That’s what’s really fun about working with a mare as well, it’s different than the relationship I had with Castle Diamond and my new horse. They’re geldings, and they’re so sweet; they’re bros. And with her, you’re really a teammate. There’s that womanly respect for one another, and it’s cool. When she starts to have her fit, you just have to be supportive. It’s a really intellectual relationship when you’re on a mare."

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Priceless Friend

Look closely and you will see the Las Vegas Strip in the background.

Last weekend I had a work trip to Las Vegas.  One perk of my career is that I have made horse friends for life around the world.  Most times, no matter where on the planet work sends me, I know someone there.  True to that trend, I have a very good friend that lives in Las Vegas.  Some of you may remember pictures from the first blog, before I accidentally deleted it, that included this friend and her handsome Murgese gelding.  She is hands down my most missed horse friend from anywhere in the world.  We all know horse people are crazy and often have some super subjective and conflicting views on just about everything.  Not this friend.  She and I are on the same page about pretty much everything, to the nth degree.  From horses, to eating habits, and everything in between, this friend gets me 101% and what I wouldn't give to live closer to her.  But, I will take any visit I can get with her!

She and I even chased down someone one night that was hiding down the road from our barn, waiting for us to leave, so they could trespass on the property after we had told them to gtfo earlier when we had caught them.  She went one way, I went the other, and we met in the middle and caught the person and blocked them in until the cops got there.  You do not mess with us when it comes to our horses.  Period.

So, after not seeing each other for years, which we did not realize it would have been five this May, you would think the last time we had seen each other in person was the day before.  We had a great time.  The next day we went riding of course.

We always had the best of times riding, exploring, talking, match racing at a full gallop, exploring the arroyo down the road from the barn, conditioning in the desert, etc...  She will go anywhere, anytime and ride for real.  She has been there to take care of Klein for me when I went to schools for work and other random trips.  She is on the extremely short list of people I would trust to watch Klein and not give a second thought about.  She was also there when I had to have knee surgery, picking me up when I was on crutches and couldn't drive myself to the barn.  My last night in New Mexico before I moved to Georgia was actually at her house having dinner with her and her hubby.  She is a fantastic cook as a bonus to everything other amazing quality she has.

Nala, one of my most favorite dogs ever.  She is just the sweetest, best pup!

Here she is as a puppy in New Mexico!  We used to call her an Ewok because she looked just like one!

Miss this Nala Bear!

Oh, and we even found a sculpture of Klein mare in the Bellagio.

Though my weekend was physically and mentally exhausting, due to the seriousness of my work, it was so worth it.  We are talking about planning a trip for her to come out and visit me now and I cannot wait.