Thursday 26 July 2018

All Breed Show 2018

Show #2 of 2018 is now in the books. This was a one day show for me as Friday was dressage day and I went to see Charlotte Dujardin instead of competing in the general performance classes on Saturday.

Yes, I am reusing photos from yesterday
Entering on centerline for my first test

The morning started off very early as a thunderstorm had derailed my plans to bathe the night before. I bathed, let Kachina dry in her stall while I packed up, and then hauled to the show grounds. At both of the last two shows in this location Kachina seriously balked as soon as I mounted up and took a while to get moving forward. Kachina has a good fitting saddle and shows no soreness in her back on palpation, but she seems like she does need some time to let the saddle settle and her back to warm up before I jump on. This is maybe exacerbated by higher stress environments. I lunged her for a couple minutes to cover my bases and was thrilled when Kachina calmly and normally walked off from the mounting block.

First 3 photos from Training 2 (unbraided)

The other problem at this show last year was the lack of a warm-up area. Thankfully the show committee elected to just have one competition ring this year so the other arena was kept clear for warm-up. The sand footing in that arena is deeper than ideal, and pocked with gopher holes along the edge, but it was still useable at least. I warmed up walk/trot/canter and was thrilled with how calm and rideable Kachina was. I didn't want to tire her out in the deep footing so we kept it fairly brief.

Since this was a local show, my husband and mom both came to watch the first two tests before they had to work. This is the first time my husband (still have to get used to that word lol) has ever seen me compete (he generally works weekends so can't make it to shows), and my mom has only come a handful of times and usually witnesses Kachina being a crazy horse. I was really glad that Kachina was having a good day so I could show them the positive side of showing. It was also a very hot day (33°C/94°F) and actually having a crew to hand me my coat and a drink of water between warm-up and my test was freaking amazing! I've always been very solo at shows but I could definitely get used to help (even non-horse-person help)! It also meant I got videos of my rides!

I'm so happy with her canter this year!

My first test got the day off to a good start. The judge took her time finishing comments on the last rider's test so I got several minutes to work around the outside of the ring and ensure that none of the sights or sounds were going to be an issue. I did my test and while I knew it wasn't perfect, I felt it clearly showed the level of work we are capable of right now. My only initial concern was that I was scared we had picked up the wrong lead to the left. I know it sounds ridiculous that I don't know but Kachina's canter feels different than any other horse I've ridden. I'm used to telling the lead by feeling which front leg takes the bigger stride, but Kachina's shoulders feel like they swing the same amount. It's hard to trust the back legs either as she can sometimes go lateral. I'm getting better at feeling her leads at home (and she's been pretty reliable with her leads lately), but at the show there was a niggling part of my brain that was worried about it. I'm glad I trusted my gut and didn't bring Kachina back to trot though as when I watched the video afterwards I could see the that we were in a nice looking correct left lead. Other than that, I was really happy with my ride, especially the relaxation and ridablility.

Training Level Test 2

(Video cuts off first minute of my test)

(And yes, I know all my halts suck in the videos, but I was focused on keeping her straight and having no backwards motion. At home when I've insisted more on immobility she has started swinging her quarters which is way more obvious to the judge so I kind of cheated during the show)

As soon as my test finished, I brought Kachina into the barn to get out of the hot sun. It was just over an hour until my next test so I loosened the girth and took Kachina's bridle off but left the saddle on. While Kachina chilled I braided her mane quickly. My original plan had been to bathe the night before and braid morning of show, but the thunderstorm meant bathing in the morning and doing braiding as well would have cut my warmup short since I rode so early in the day. I was happy with how Kachina was going so I didn't feel the need to do much work before my next test.

Free walk from Training Level Test 3

My next training level test also went fairly well in my opinion. I could feel that we lost the bend in some corners and she wasn't bending around my inside leg, but I felt her rhythm and connection were pretty steady and I was happy with it. I also could feel that both canters were correct this time around. I actually thought we might do quite well when it came to scores.

This is a rodeo photographer but she is getting great at nailing the uphill
part of the canter stride for dressage shows!

Training Level Test 3

After my second test we had a several hour break before First Level so I untacked Kachina and let her chill in the shaded stall. I picked up my morning tests during lunch. I was initially very disappointed in my low scores. First of all because I had thought they had been better rides, but also because I didn't achieve my 63% and that automatically took me out of the running for ADA year end awards as there aren't enough shows left in the season (I would require 3 scores at 3 different shows). At that time no other scores were posted so I assumed that my 2nd and 3rd placings meant that scores were low across the board. That turned out to only be half true (the scores of the day went the full range from 50%-73%, however there were almost twice as many scores below 60% as there were above 65%). I then watched the videos of my morning rides and I saw that what I had been feeling during the test did not match how it looked. It was true that our rhythm was steadier that it was in the past, but what I had felt as a soft round connection was actually Kachina going around with her nose poked out and me having too loose of reins. She used to go to extremes of curling behind the contact or having her head straight in the air. She is much steadier now and I took that to mean good things but she is actually steadily a bit above the bit (and not actually as steady as I first thought). I constantly have to re-evaluate my feel on this horse. Re-evaluating my feel can only be done through the help of video or an instructor on the ground and I haven't had nearly enough of either lately. While part of why I show is that I want to do well (and get ribbons!), a bigger reason for showing is to get an objective check on how we are doing. We got that at this show and that's how I'm going to improve.

Stretchy trot from second test (T3)
I know the judge wants to see more but this IS a stretch for Kachina
(photographer left for the day before my First Level test so all photos from Training Level)

At this point, I knew our score at First Level was likely going to be low, but I still wanted to go out and get the feedback.

We did a fairly short warm-up for the First Level test, in large part to the unrelenting sun and the fact that it was the hottest part of the day. I did practice a few trot lengthens and was disappointed when Kachina broke into canter during the first attempts.

We went in for our final test of the day and it had a combination of bad and good. On the negative side, our lengthens were conservative (because I was worried about breaking), and Kachina spooked hard during our first canter transition which resulted in a wrong lead and two botched movements (the spook seemed out of nowhere to me but later the gate person told me it had happened right as some workers stood up on the edge of the grandstand roof which was in Kachina's field of view). Our canter work was a bit tense in general after that, and it's hard for me to sit the canter well when her back is tight. However, on the bright side, I was proud of myself for riding through the issues, our leg yields were the best we've done, and I could feel Kachina stretching for a good portion of the stretchy circle.

First Level Test 2

After exiting at A, I did one brief left lead canter to leave Kachina with the memory of that transition rather than the spook one, but as soon as I was out of the arena I hopped off to let her be done and give her lots of pets and treats.

By the time I had packed up the trailer and was ready to roll out, they still didn't have the First Level results in so I had to come grab my test on Sunday after I got back from seeing Charlotte in Calgary. The Charlotte clinic gave me a fresh perspective on my scores; I'll expound on that more in the next post. However, in general, despite the low scores I was happy with Kachina's performance. She was relaxed and obedient and it finally feels like we have a solid base on which to grow. I mean, there is a lot to work on for sure, but we've been dealing with tension and filling in training holes (both mine and hers) for so long that it feels awesome to think about moving forward even if it's at a glacial pace.

My ribbon haul when all was said and done

Wednesday 25 July 2018

WW: Show Photos

I love having a pro photographer at shows! Here are a few images I bought, full recap in the works


Tuesday 24 July 2018

Dressage, Dressage, Dressage!

This past weekend was jammed full of lots of dressage activities!

It started off on Friday with dressage day at the local All Breed Horse Show. I competed in two training level tests and one first level test. Overall I was really pleased with my rides and our improvement from last year though my scores were lower than I had hoped.

On Saturday I joined a few friends on a trip to Calgary for Charlotte Dujardin's Masterclass Clinic! It was an inspiring day and also seemed to be a gathering of almost everyone in the Alberta dressage world. 

Sunday I had a much-needed lesson with Elaine, followed by a conference call meeting of the Alberta Dressage Association executive. 

I will write fuller recaps of the show, clinic, and lesson but overall it was a cool combination of all facets of my involvement with dressage in one weekend. I truly love this sport and the last few days have left me more inspired and determined than ever to work hard and progress as best I can. 

Monday 23 July 2018

2018 Chinook Country Dressage Show Recap

This is late but I still want a record of it so here is the details about how my show went on the weekend of June 16-17. Sorry, this is long and wordy but again it is a lot for my own records (and it's late enough already so I didn't feel like breaking it into parts)


I had the day off work so luckily I had time to ride Kachina, bathe her and pack all my gear on Friday before leaving.

My ride was great. I hadn't ridden in a few days so she was pretty up and it took some time to focus but once we got into a groove everything we've been working on over the winter was there and accessible. I was also able to add some new work without losing too many marbles. For instance, this was the first ride of the year where I practised canter lengthens. I will reiterate that practising a movement for the first time the day before debuting it at a show is not the recommended plan but it kind of worked. I've definitely made some mistakes in my riding before but I feel like we are on a good path now. The fact that we can pick up after some time off, get as good of quality of connection and transitions as we are capable of, and be able to push the envelope to boot was pretty nice.

The bath was a little more eventful than I wanted it to be. I was so excited to use the wash rack in the barn complete with hot water. However once we got in there after our ride Kachina started slipping on the wet concrete like crazy. There was a bit of a dicey moment there as I was trying to keep Kachina calm and stable while also getting the water turned off. That flooring isn't normally that slippery; I think it was just that Kachina's bare hooves are so extra hard from they dry weather that they had no traction on the hard surface. We ended up doing an abbreviated rinse with cold water out on the grass instead.

I then turned out Kachina briefly while I packed my stuff and loaded the trailer (of course she rolled multiple times). We left pretty much right on schedule and had an uneventful haul to Claresholm.

Once we arrived on the show grounds I got Kachina settled, brought her on a hand walk, and trimmed her mane and tail (first show of the season).

Checking out the warmup arena Friday night


I woke up Saturday morning to find that it had rained a lot overnight and was still coming down steadily. The show ring was indoors but the only warm-up was outside so this was not good news. I braided Kachina quickly (and badly, tried using braideez braiding wires but the lengths were off and I didn't have time to redo). We then tacked up and went for warmup. I was the very first ride-time of the show, but due to a smaller number of entries that was at the very reasonable time of 10:00am. Since I was up first and like a longer warmup than many people, we had the warmup ring to ourselves for the most part. My warmup coincided perfectly with a short break from the rain. The footing was very wet and heavy but there was no standing water and the traction seemed good. We had a productive warmup and were actually able to practice all the test elements before I went in to perform them for the judge.

First show of the year!

Training Level Test 1


This test felt fine but not great to me. We made no mistakes but it felt like it was missing some polish. I was surprised that this ended up being our high score of the weekend. I was also a bit surprised to see many comments asking for more active and more energy. I know we've made big improvements to relaxation and rhythm and had felt like we had started to work on allowing the gaits to be bigger but I took this feedback to mean that we needed to amp this up more. I do try to read my tests as soon as possible in a show so I can try and tweak things for subsequent tests, but that can have negative impacts as well. I was super happy to see that none of our movements scored less than a 6.0 for this test, that is a new achievement for us!


It was raining hard again by this point so I mostly waited inside on Kachina until our next class:

Dressage Equitation Flat Class

The Dressage Equitation division is one I've competed in before. You do a flat group class and a Training level test and your scores are added together to determine the winner. This was the flat class. There were only two of us in it. The judge had us walk, trot and canter both directions and also demonstrate diagonals, free walk and stretchy trot. This class showed me that I don't work on the rail enough at home - along the long sides Kachina would start to drift off the rail, likely expecting a circle, this was a reoccurring problem at the show so I've been trying to do more straight lines at home ever since. I felt like a rode pretty well in the class and was happy with how we did but I know leaning forward and having open hands are bad habits of mine so I don't dispute those comments.

Dignified Goof

After Dressage Equitation finished I went back out to the rainy warmup to practice some lengthens in preparation for our First Level debut! This was Kachina's first time ever showing at First Level, and my first time competing in the level at a recognized show (competed in schooling shows years ago with my last horse). I knew we weren't confirmed at the level but it was a big deal for me to finally just feel like we could attempt it!

First Level Test 1

Obviously 58% is not a great score, but as a debut it tells me that we are ready for this work and I just need to keep working on the level. I was actually pretty happy with my score, especially as that was despite an error where I tried to skip half the movements in the test for some stupid reason. This was our first test with lengthens and we got 6.0 on three out of 4 of them (both trot and canter). Clearly room for improvement but I'm happy we aren't way out to lunch on the movement.

Having fun

Finally, after a long morning, I untacked Kachina and put her back in her stall for lunch and a well earned break. This is also when I picked up and reviewed my morning tests. I saw the comments about needing more activity so I planned to increase the energy for my next test. However, once I got back on again I found that I didn't have a lot of horse. I know that 4 tests in a day is more than many people choose to do, but Kachina and I have done it many times before. She is not a horse who generally tires out, and in fact usually does better as the day goes on. She has shown me her almost boundless energy multiple times before, both in dressage rides and long days in the saddle on demanding trail rides. In almost 4 years of ownership this is the first and only time I've ever felt Kachina tired. I think the heavy wet footing in the warm up arena was a big factor that drained her energy. It was unfortunate timing though as I was trying to push for more forward in my test and for the first time ever, my go button didn't work.

Training Level Test 3

I was so focused on forward on my sluggish horse that I clearly lost some balance and connection. We picked up the wrong lead to the right (which I fixed but not before it impacted the scores for two movements), and also had a poor stretch trot circle. I could feel it was a bad test, however other bloggers have said before that they don't mind having new problems, they just don't want to repeat old problems. Well that was us in our last test of the day so I guess that's okay.

My winnings from Saturday


Sunday dawned bright and clear, but the ground was pretty saturated with rain. The entries for the morning Prix Caprilli class all scratched so I found myself again being the first rider of the day. The warmup was sloppier than it had been the previous day so I kept my warmup fairly short and basic before going in for T2.

Sloppy warm up

Training Level Test 2

This test felt really good to me so I was a bit disappointed in the score. It felt representative of the work we do at home which I thought was where we were supposed to be. While this score was lower than Training 1 on Saturday, it was mostly just less consistent. My 62.4% then was made up of almost entirely 6.0s and 6.5s, while this time around I got four 5.5s but also four 7.0s. I'm glad I had a clinic with the judge after the show because otherwise I would have been confused about what I should be doing differently.

I felt ready for my next test so I just parked at the rail until my ride time (also due to the sloppy warmup and not wanting to tire Kachina out again).

The best at parking by the rail
(and yes, she did rub out several inches of mane a week before the show)

Dressage Equitation Training TOC - T1

This test also felt pretty good to me. Kachina was against my inside leg a bit in on the long sides and corners though which the judge clearly noticed. We'll work on that. This test scored mostly 6s.

We took another long lunch break and Kachina chilled in her stall before the afternoon. By the time I got on again the warmup was starting to dry a little bit but was still sloppy enough that we couldn't work well on lengthens or leg yields but Kachina was doing well otherwise.

First Level Test 2

My final test of the show was First Level Test 2. I have never shown this test before which means I have never done it in a full size court (arenas at home are only short court length). This is totally my fault for not figuring out the geometry better but I realized too late that our leg yields are not nearly steep enough and I struggled to get her all the way over before the letter. This is something I can fix so its good to know. I also struggled to keep Kachina straight during the canter lengthens (pushing against my inside leg again). These are still fairly new movements for us so I am okay with the mistakes. However, one thing that really sucked was seeing that we got a 4.0 on the stretchy trot circle that I had been so proud of! A 4.0 on a double coefficient really does make a difference to your score. I had actually scored badly on my stretchy trot all weekend but didn't know what I was doing wrong. I've since learned so that will be the subject of a future post.

Muddy legs


My goal for the weekend had been to get over 63% on a test to qualify for year end ADA awards. Unfortunately I was 0.4% away from achieving my goal.

While the scores weren't what I was hoping for, I did do better than expected on the placing front.  Sadly for this satin aficionado, this show gives money instead of ribbons for classes. Ribbons are reserved for divisions only. However, I did get cash for almost every test, and ended up as Grand Champion for Adult Amateur Dressage Equitation. I narrowly missed Reserve Champion for Training Level but surprising clinched Reserve Champion for First Level! Granted, some of the divisions were pretty small, but there was still competition so I'm pretty happy for my ribbons. And, as I wrote before, I was thrilled with my awesome horse :-)

Kachina had no patience for ribbon photos

Wednesday 18 July 2018

30 Before 30

I turned the big 3-0 last weekend. It was pretty low key but a good birthday. As seems typical for new decades, it did lead me to have a bit of introspection about where I am in my life. In general I am happy with how things are at this point in my time on Earth so that feels pretty good.

Back in January 2015 when I was 26 (and a year before I started blogging), I made a 30 Before 30 list of thirty things I wanted to do before now. This was just for fun, I try and always be cognizant of the fact that life moves us in unexpected directions, but it's still good to have goals. The 30 items spanned all facets of my life, but I will just go into the horse-related ones here. So, how did I do?

1. Compete in 2nd level dressage
- Nope - I had very unrealistic expectations when I got Kachina about how quickly we'd be able to move up the levels. We both had to fill in a LOT of holes, but we are finally showing First Level this year :-)

2. Show Kachina at a horse show
- Yes - Yes x 11 shows actually!
Our first show
Our most recent show

3. Attend a recognized CDI dressage show
- Yes - I scribed at 3 of these and learned so so much!
View from the judge's box at a CDI

4. Play with horses in water
- Yes - we didn't actually swim but I did play in the Milk River with Kachina on our Writing on Stone ride
Playing in the shallows (we also crossed multiple times under saddle)

5. Ride under instruction of Grand Prix level rider
- Yes - I've actually done this with 5 different trainers who have ridden at Grand Prix! Not all riders at that level are good trainers but they do have a different view of dressage than previous instructors I had who had only ridden up to 2nd or 3rd. I've also found a couple really good trainers so I think it has been useful to search out this experience
Kachina and my first lesson with Sandra - this was a transforming experience for us
and we've both come a long way since then

6. Trail ride somewhere other than fields
- Yes - I've ridden by the river as well as in Writing on Stone and the Cypress Hills which were both great (but challenging) experiences
This photo still makes me feel like a badass

On the Writing on Stone ride
Coming back to base from Cypress Hills ride

7. Become a certified pair for mounted Search and Rescue
- Nope - we can do a lot of the stuff but I never pursued the testing. Kachina is a great trail horse but Search and Rescue is better suited to a different personality of horse I think. Also, while I appreciate cross training and the versatile horse, at this time it would hurt our dressage training to switch to doing one-handed maneuvers etc.

8. Gallop
- Sort of - when I wrote this down I meant do a full out gallop at top speed. We have had forward open canters in the field which were great but I didn't trust our balance/the footing enough to go full out.

I still want to go for a full out gallop on Kachina and compete at second level (and beyond!) but I'm pretty pleased with how much I accomplished. Also, in the last few years I've had some amazing opportunities that I never even dreamed of back when I created the list. Blogging, blogger meetups, organizing clinics, running a horse show, and being involved with the Alberta Dressage Association are all things I didn't even have on my radar but that have made my equestrian life richer.

Morning prep for 2nd annual dressage show

Have you ever made any similar kinds of lists? 30 Before 30, Bucket List, etc. What is on it? What would change if you made a new list today?

Tuesday 17 July 2018

A Horsey Weekend

I finally got my weekend at the barn! Of course I am a horrible blogger and have no media of it but both Saturday and Sunday I had very productive rides followed by productive stall sessions for Kachina.

Under Saddle Work:
- my position: sit back, relax shoulders, arms forward, don't tip pelvis
- walk/trot transitions: prompt response to my leg without getting inverted
- trot: keeping steady rhythm and connection while having more energy
- canter: sitting deep in saddle without restricting the forward (hard for me since she has such a big canter), work on straight lines without her pushing against my inside leg
- stretchy trot: starting it from a point of more energy, work to re-establish stretch when her head pops up rather than immediately shortening reins (I have a whole post on stretchy trot in the works)
- focus on exactly controlling path using inside leg and outside rein - this helps in two ways 1. helps our figure shapes and not falling in or out, 2. gives me a good way to focus on inside leg to outside rein without getting into a pulling mindset
- Saturday we did some trot leg yields
- Sunday we worked on keeping focus while doing figures around jumps in the jump arena that we don't ride in much - Kachina was definitely a bit distracted but it was good practice for me to work through it
- Sunday I also did my first ever baby canter loop with Kachina (like the one in First Level Test 3 but shallower), this is the one First Level movement I didn't think we'd be ready for this year but attempt #1 went better than expected! Her canter really has become more balanced and adjustable. We still won't be showing F3 for a while though.

Stall Work:
- both days I put Kachina in her stall after our ride. I purposely did average to difficult rides to burn away some of Kachina's excess energy and to hopefully help with the lesson that the stall is a nice place of relaxation after work
- I tied Kachina in the aisle to untack and give a quick grooming before putting her in the stall. That way she had no expectations in the stall of needing to stand for untacking etc. This will come later, but right now I don't want to overwhelm Kachina's brain hamsters. It's also a safety thing for me that I put her in the stall, take off her halter and then immediately leave the stall myself so I'm not in the line of fire.
- Before bringing Kachina in I would set up the stall with her feed, a full hay bag, and a full water bucket
- Once Kachina was in the stall I would leave the stall but stay in the vicinity. I put away tack, swept the aisleway and sat in a camp chair with a book. I wanted to be close by in case she got into any trouble and also let her know she wasn't being totally deserted. However I also kept my eyes averted most of the time and was especially careful not to give her any attention, positive or negative, when she started pawing etc.
- Throughout the two days she alternated between pacing circles around the stall, shoving her neck out the opening, pawing, knocking her water bucket, neighing etc. The first day I was scared she was going to start windsucking or something as she was standing for a few minutes with her mouth open and jaw twisted (her sign of tension) while breathing really hard. Thankfully that didn't last too long.
- Both days I took Kachina out of her stall and returned her to her paddock after several minutes of no pawing and when she put her head down to start eating.
- There is still a long way to go but there were improvements even from Day 1 to Day 2 so I feel like this plan is working so far. e.g. even though Kachina's head was still up and looking around on the second day, her eyes were less white and she was doing less mouth gaping than the first day
- I really feel like I need to keep doing these stall sessions 5 days a week to keep making progress. That is quite a time commitment though so I hope I will be able to follow through.
- I also just want to say that I find it emotionally difficult to see Kachina freaking out in the stall while I just sit by and watch. However, I honestly believe that this "tough love" is required and that it's in Kachina's best interest. Right now if Kachina had to be sold, or if she got injured and had to be on stall rest, her outlook would not be great. Ideally this is an issue Kachina should have been worked through when she was young, but I will do my best to help her learn now

Friday 13 July 2018


So it's been a crazy couple weeks to say the least.

Kachina leaving the hay bale to come say hi

My last two posts on goals were pre-written drafts that I was planning to add photos etc. to before they went out but didn't get the chance. I like goal posts for tracking myself but they also seem more impersonal as they don't accurately talk about what's going on in the here and now.

I love the way she comes up to me these days

What's going on in the here and now? While I have had good rides and work with Kachina lately, we still struggle with having her stand. This has been a long term problem that I've been trying to address basically since day 1. I finally think I have more information about the problem and a better plan to tackle it.

Paddock buddies eat from the same side of the bale now

Here's the deal: Kachina tends to stand like a normal horse when she is away from home, either tied or in a stall, but cannot deal when she is tied inside a barn at home; she doesn't pull back but she dances around, paws, and is very tense. For most of the time I've had her, home was my old barn, where the indoor arena/barn was admittedly a bit spooky (shadowy, motion sensitive lights that would go on and off, skittish cats running around, a half wall high enough that horses couldn't see over, and a quiet barn with no indoor boarders so Kachina was usually the only horse in there). I worked with her for a very long time on standing behavior in the barn. She did get better, learning that she wasn't allowed to invade my space while she was dancing around and teaching her cues to stop pawing, but these were changes in her body's response, not a change in her headspace. She never truly relaxed until I asked her to move her feet and gave her a job. The change was sometimes super dramatic: she would be a bundle of nerves while I was tacking up but as soon as I mounted up and started riding she would breath deeply and completely relax over her topline. After a long time I eventually moved because I thought that the setup at the old barn was just not working for Kachina.

Tense pawing mess tied at old barn

Enter the new barn. New barn is somewhere that I had been to with Kachina before for lessons or clinics and a place where she would be damn close to falling asleep while tied in the aisle way. My first week there she was much better at standing for grooming and tacking up and I thought I had solved the problem. Of course nothing can be that easy with horses. As the weeks went by Kachina's behaviour worsened to almost as bad as it was at the old barn. Not quite as bad, so the physical set up does seem to make a bit of difference, but she still regressed enough that the problem was still very much present. The barn move was still useful though because it gave me information I was missing before. What happened in the weeks from arrival at the new barn until the bad behaviour came back? My handling hadn't changed (I really monitored that), and she hadn't had any bad experiences in the barn. The only thing I could figure is that Kachina bonded to her new neighbours and pen mates and the new barn became "home". The Chinook show was our first time away since we've moved to the new barn and Kachina was very calm in her stall at the show all weekend. It confirmed that the problem is with standing inside at home.

Standing like a normal horse in new barn before it became home
(at a haul-in lesson years ago)

Why is that? I don't know. My two hypotheses are that either A) something bad happened to Kachina inside a barn at one of her previous "homes" or B) Kachina has a slightly odd presentation of herdboundness. I say odd because Kachina does not seem to match the typical symptoms of being herdbound: she happily follows me from the field most of the time, she doesn't vocalize much, she doesn't mind being ridden away from friends, and doesn't rush home on trail rides. However, despite this there is still a chance that being tied away from her friends and not having enough instruction to take her focus off of that is the combination of factors that brings out the problem. A) is also a possibility as it does seem like Kachina had some rough treatment in her formative years. I am not sure which cause it is but I think the solution is the same: I need to get Kachina to learn to self-sooth inside at home. She already knows how to relax if I am being a leader for her (like when I ride or do work in hand with her) but she needs to learn to relax for herself. I had thought of this a bit at the old barn but I didn't have a good set up for it there. At my current barn I have a nice safe stall that I can use in the main barn aisle. This is an ideal place to set Kachina up for success. It's a light and airy location, I can equip her with food and water, she can poke her head out the stall door to look around, and it's a busy barn where she will see horses come and go all day so she can't rely too heavily on any one horse but still not be isolated. It's also an easy location for me to set up with a book and a camp chair to keep an eye on her without being actively involved.

I think it's a good plan, but I need a weekend to execute it. Well our Chinook Bronze show was 4 weeks ago now (I still want to post more about that). The weekend after that I was out of town for a dragonboat festival (my other sport). I'm part of a great team and I love almost every thing about it except that it takes away my horse time on festival weekends. The first weekend of July was supposed to be a long weekend for Canada Day and I was all geared up to spend all weekend at the barn. Instead, that Saturday I got a call from work that a major component had failed. I was covering for two coworkers on vacation so suddenly I was the prime person running a major repair project. I've been working ever since, putting in 10-13 hour days for the last two weeks straight. We finally got things up and running again and I am super excited to spend this weekend at the barn instead of at work!

Thursday 5 July 2018

Check In on Yearly Goals

I've already done my Quarterly goal post, but I also want to take a minute halfway through the year to check in on my general 2018 goals:

Green - Completed or going well
Blue - In Progress/Ongoing, have made some progress but need to keep working
Red - Forgot about or haven't succeeded yet, needs more focus

2018 Goals


  1. Increase Kachina's trust in other people so she can be caught and handled by someone else - In Progress
  2. Keep Kachina happy and healthy - Ongoing
  3. Develop plan for Kachina for if/when I might be grounded (lease? liberty work? need to think about this) - In Progress

Horse Community

  1. Organize a second local dressage show - Complete 20/5/2018
  2. Be an active participant of my area dressage association - Ongoing
  3. Be an active participant of the community equestrian facility board - Ongoing
  4. Attend a dressage judging clinic - Registered for August!
  5. Audit a clinic - Audited a jumping clinic at my barn. Registered for Charlotte Dujardin for July.

Dressage Riding

  1. Have Kachina and I improve in dressage through methods that build our cooperation and trust - In Progress but going well
  2. Improve my position and hands - Ongoing but clear improvement already
  3. Test ride regularly to determine weaknesses - Needs refocus
  4. Video my rides at least once a month and critique them myself - Needs refocus
  5. Compete in at least one show - Complete 17/6/2018
  6. Ride a First Level test that feels good (this can be at home) - In Progress but going well
(These are essentially my goals to make sure that I'm on the right track with a trainer, if the training isn't helping me then I need to make a change)


  1. Have fun - Ongoing
  2. Experiment again with clicker training - Needs refocus
  3. Go on trail rides with friends - Not yet, have some plans though
  4. Canter or gallop out in the fields - Needs refocus
  5. Figure out how to mount from the ground (I know using a mounting block is better for the horse's back, but I need a solution for trail riding in bald prairie #shortpersonproblems) - Needs refocus
  6. Settle on a boarding situation - Complete 3/30/2018

Stretch Goals

  1. Show at First Level - Complete 16/6/2018
  2. Earn above 65% at a show - In Progress
  3. Place in a competitive class - In Progress

Tuesday 3 July 2018

2018 Q2 Review & Q3 Goals

2018 Q2 Goals

1. Settle into New Barn 
This means going out more frequently to reassure Kachina that the move doesn't mean I've abandoned her. It also means keeping a close eye on Kachina's weight and mental state to see if the move is actually benefiting her. Some short term upheaval is possible but if things don't improve within this quarter, I need to be prepared to make additional changes. 
Success! - The barn move has clarified that we still have some confidence issues to work through but in general Kachina and I are doing better in new barn than we were at old one. 

2. Improve my Relationship with Kachina on the Ground
This is a key reason why I am moving barns. I am already's Kachina's person, but I want her to learn that things like extended grooming sessions can be enjoyable, not just something to endure. Even if we have less arena time we should be able to use the heated barn and stall for some simple bonding time.
Semi-success - we've worked on this. I've made a point of making some barn trips just about feeding, grazing or grooming but we still have work to do to get her to relax in the barn. As a positive sign though Kachina has started to consistently look up as soon as I call her name and walk up to me in the big paddock. 

3. Hold 2nd Annual Dressage Show
This is scheduled for May 19-21, and it's looking like we're in decent shape compared to last year, but it's still going to involve a lot of work. 
Success! - we've already talked about this

4. Test Ride Every Two Weeks
Show season is coming and test riding helps us with showing so this needs to be added back into our schedule. This will consist of Training tests initially but hopefully include First Level tests by May or June. Our circles or diagonals might need to be a little wonky if there are jumps in the way but even a rough approximation of the pattern should help. Ideally I would like to do this weekly, but every two weeks at minimum. 
Fail! - I didn't even ride every two weeks so this was a fail this quarter. I didn't actually do any test riding until the day before my first show. I'm keeping this goal though because it needs to happen.

5. Work on Canter Lengthens
I know we have trot lengthens, and we've lengthened canter before successfully, but I haven't done much structured work yet on going forward and then coming back in the canter without losing anything else. This is the key thing holding us back from First Level right now so I want to work on it.
Success! - So working doing structured work on canter lengthens for the first time the week before the show where we were debuting at First Level wasn't really the ideal way to do this, but we did do it so it counts! I was actually really happy with how this came together, her canter has become much more adjustable. 

6. Get Married
I know, I know, not a horse goal, but I'm putting it on the list so I remember not to get too ambitious with equestrian pursuits. 
Success! - Got the ring on my finger to prove it ;-)

2018 Q3 Goals

1. Bring Kachina into Barn 5 Days/Week
We need consistency to make headway on Kachina's tension in the barn so I need to bring her in regularly. Even if I'm short on time and just bring her in and tie her for 5 minutes it will help, just visiting her in the paddock isn't good enough (my previous short cut when I didn't have time to ride). What exactly I do with her when I bring her in may need to adapt depending on how things go but I have some new plans.

2. Test Ride Every Two Weeks
Working on basics is always important but those aren't enough if I don't also practice geometry and the way movements flow together.

3. Develop a Good Stretchy Trot
We've scored badly on this movement too many times and it's frequently a double coefficient. I need to stop thinking that working on connection in general is enough to give us a consistent stretch, and actually focus on the movement itself as well as the basics behind it.

4. Commit to a Weekend of Stall Time
I need to be prepared to spend a lot of hours over a weekend if required to get Kachina to relax in a stall at our home barn. I have plans to kind of simulate a show environment (where she is great in a stall) at home (where she is not). I actually wanted to do this last weekend but crap went seriously sideways at work so I had to deal with that all long weekend instead.

5. Go on Two Trail Rides
These are already planned

6. Canter/Gallop in Fields
I've spent too much time in the arena since my barn move, there are fields that I want to take advantage of.

7. Participate in Judge's Clinic 
I'm registered so this should happen in August

Update on 2018 Show Season Stretch Goals

All of these are stretch goals (because only so many show dates, and horses wreck plans), but something for me to aim for within Q2 or Q3 (show season is Apr-Sept)

1. Debut at First Level
Success! - Two 58%s and a Reserve Champion award isn't too shabby for a debut! There's no excuse not to do First Level now so I will keep working on and showing at this level throughout the summer

2. Score Above 65%
Not Yet - highest so far is 62.6%, but as long as we do some focused work (and actually test ride!) I don't think 65% is out of reach. 

3. Earn an ADA Wild Rose Award
This involves getting scores of 63% or higher at 3 different shows at Training Level or First Level.
Not Yet - The first show of the year had us 0.4% short of getting our first score, but there are 4 more shows on the calendar so I'm still going to try my best to make this happen!