Friday, September 22, 2023


Summer is transitioning into fall here in the PNW and I couldn't be happier about it. Temps are cooling, rain is in the forecast, and Cinder is feeling good. Its so obvious that she's a cold weather girl, and not a fan of hot girl summer. 

After her couple easy weeks, Cinder came out ready to work. We had a few great flat lessons where we were able to put a bit more pressure on her, ask for more, and she stepped right up. We played around with transitions within the gaits, doing the numbers game where 5 is a normal working trot and then going up to an 8, and back down to a 4, then a 7, etc. Trainer A wanted me to focus on keeping her connected and round, and we got some really, really nice trot work. 

I helped A out with her filly at the KWPN keuring and that itty bitty forelock braid is the cutest thing I've ever seen 

The highlight was our canter work. I was able to keep that rounder frame going into the canter, and it felt magical. Going left is Cin's easier direction, and once I got her where I wanted in the connection, she was able to keep it with minimal input from me. It felt so nice. The right lead is a little harder, but it still felt so good. 


Unfortunately all that flat work didn't quite translate to our jumping. In our lesson last week Cinder was a bit distracted and I couldn't quite get her fully connected. We did a few singles off a long approach, and the easiest was the square oxer on the diagonal, go figure. I started overthinking the ride to the single on the outside, as well as the outside line on the other long side. I was micromanaging her too much, without having enough impulsion. Trainer A told me I was working too hard to make the distances happen, and that I needed to get a good rhythm with impulsion, and let the distances happen. That was light bulb moment and everything became much easier after that. 


Wednesday, August 30, 2023

Summer Vacay

 Cinder got two easy weeks after Split Rock. The first week saw temps up to 108*, so even if she hadn't shown the week before, she would have gotten the time off anyways. At the end of that week the vet was out and Cinder got some acupuncture. She was tight in her back and slightly stocked up behind, probably due to the show and not moving around during the heat wave. She's a horse that when the temps are above 85 she's sure she can't possibly move, and the barn was only doing half day turnout so she was in under her fan more than normal. Vet recommended a few days of bute and easy work, so Trainer A took her on a couple trail rides and the legs bounced right back. The tightness in her back is also partly due to my saddle, but I have the fix for that on order and it should be here in the next few weeks.

Barn cat likes to judge you while you mix up supplement containers

Last week I was swamped with work and then my mom and I had a weekend away in Central Oregon. I didn't make it out to the barn for over a week and I felt like a bad pony mom. Cinder got some more trail ride and a stretchy flat ride while I was gone. She did manage to find trouble while I was away. The horse in the paddock next to her sat on the fence, and then freaked out when the hot tape wound around her hind legs. That set Cinder off, and she managed to scrape up one of her hind legs as well. It's all superficial, but she's one that swells easily, so when I came out for my lesson on Monday it was still pretty stocked up. She was 100% sound, so that's good. 

Now that the pasture is dead, Peebs is enjoying getting turned out on it for half a day, instead of being 24/7 in his dry lot. 

We decided to go on a trail ride for my lesson, as it was very humid (for Oregon. I know it's nothing compared to the east coast). The bugs were out in full force and Cinder was not happy about it. She kept having mini tantrums during the ride and would stop to try and get at the bugs on her. There's one section of the trail that Cin hates; you have to cross over a culvert with a little pond on one side, and a stream on the other. Jazzy, the mare Trainer A was riding, is usually pretty solid, but she spooked hard at that crossing so Cinder said no thank you. I dug my heels into and pushed her forward, and she ended up bolting across it and tried to run up the hill on the other side. A wanted me to stop her and come back down and let her stand for minute to see that the culver wasn't scary, but when I went to circle back, she reared twice. They were tiny rears, but as we were still going up hill I didn't trust her to keep her balance and gave up. A was fine with me giving up, and we'll revisit that crossing later. By the time we got back to the barn both Cinder and I were covered in sweat and so happy to be done. Hopefully my lesson on Friday isn't as exciting!

Friday, August 18, 2023

Split Rock Portland 2: Long Stirrup Hunter

 Originally we had hoped that Split Rock would have a 2'3" junior/amateur division for me to show in. We're ready to move up from the 2', but not quite ready to debut at the 2'6" (and we plan to do that at a schooling show, not a rated one), but they didn't, so we entered the short stirrup division. Management said they would split the division into short and long if entries warranted, and thankfully they did. My division was supposed to run Saturday and Sunday, in the afternoons.

Barn friends that keep you and your horse hydrated are the best

Saturday I had two over fences classes that were scheduled to go at 1:45, but ended up going closer to 2:30. I was way more nervous that I thought I would be, and combined with the temps at nearly 90*, I was a hot mess, in more ways than one. Thankfully Cinder acted like the seasoned pro she's turning into, and was foot perfect for me in the warm-up. 

Our first round started with a longish approach to a single diagonal, and I nailed it. It felt perfect and I was so happy that I kinda forgot to ride to the next line. We had to come around past the in gate, to an 8 stride outside line along the judge's booth. As soon as we turned down the long side, I heard A tell me to ride her forward, and I did put my leg on, but not enough. I saw the long spot to the first fence and froze, instead of moving her up. I did realize that that was going to make the 8 harder and I tried to push her forward, but we got to the out long as well. The rest of the course rode well, minus having to do a simple change. We placed third out of five. Our second round had a couple of bobbles. I did ride her forward for the 8 better, but added a stride in the diagonal line and had to do another simple change. We placed fourth in that round. 

Final ribbon count for the week

Both Cin and I were hot and sweaty when we were done, and I started having doubts about Sunday. The heat wave was going to get hotter, with Sunday's forecasted high at 100*. A and I discussed it as we waited around for ribbons, and we decided to scratch. Neither Cinder nor I handle the heat very well, and as much as I love ribbons, it wasn't going to be worth it. There's only so much mesh shirts and show coats can do, after all.  We had survived our first rated show, and done well, so why not quit while we were ahead. I am still slightly disappointed at having to miss Sunday, but I'm so, so proud of how good Cinder was all week and I know it was the right decision. There's always another horse show. 

Wednesday, August 16, 2023

Split Rock Portland 2: Pro-Day 2

 Thursday was the second day of showing and Cinder had two over fences rounds to finish up her division. We once again went first thing in the morning for A's jumper rides, then ran back to the barn to grab Cinder for her divisions. Cinder had been very itchy Wednesday night, and since about half the horses in her division weren't braided, I had pulled her braids out. I really like the braided look, but it wasn't worth her being so itchy. 

Still cute sans braids

Cinder was pretty miffed about not being turned out, and was a bit of a brat to load. I had looped the lead rope around my hand, so of course she tried to run sideways instead of loading, and my thumb got a nice rope burn. Mr. Stud Chain them came out to play and Cinder loaded perfectly. 

At the show she was very well behaved, but very tired. She still tried her heart out, but she blew a lead change in both rounds. Flying changes are still relatively new for her, and I'm not surprised they were the first thing to go when she was tired. We're going to implement flying change boot camp this winter, because A wants to show her in the 3' next year but I've put my foot down and said she has to have a change for that division. Even with the missed changes, she placed 7th in her first round. Both A and I were very happy with her for still trying even when it was obvious she was exhausted. She got a very well deserved Friday off in the pasture before my division started on Saturday. 

Monday, August 14, 2023

Split Rock Portland 2: Warm-Up and Pro Day 1

 Cinder made her rated show debut and I made my return to the rated ring after 14 years last week. We went to the second week of the Split Rock Jumping Tour's Portland stop. I went to spectate last year and loved the show grounds and the atmosphere so it was #1 on my list for Cin's rated show debut. 

Heading out to school on warm-up day

The show is about 15mins away from Cinder's barn, and since I'm on a bit of a budget and stalls were $$ for the week, and looked smaller than the 10x10 they were supposed to be, we decided to just haul in. We did take Cinder over on Tuesday for ticketed warm-ups and to check in. Due to the VS outbreak in California, all horses had to be inspected before unloading and it was easier to get that out of the way on Tuesday vs Wednesday when she would be showing. 

From where trailers parked to where the hunter rings were was quite the hike. Trainer A was riding, thankfully, because Cinder was a bit impressed with the atmosphere walking around the grounds. There's a pond on the property and when we walked by on Tuesday, dogs and kids were splashing around and causing a ruckus that Cinder did not like. She thankfully settled once we got to the rings, and schooled in both rings like a pro. She took a little peak at one of the logs from the derby, but jumped it on the second try without hesitation. 

We went back home and she got braided Tuesday night. She was very confused why someone was standing on the stool next to her for so long, but she was a good sport about it. I was a bit worried she'd rub her braids out overnight, as she can be an itchy girl, but there was only one that came a little loose that I had to tighten up. 

Cinder got to meet her older half sister Izzy, and made her look like a pony. Izzy definitely didn't get their mom's height gene

Trainer A had another horse she was showing in the jumpers first thing in the morning, so we ran over to the show without Cinder for that. Split Rock requires formal attire for all their jumper classes, so there were quite a few hunters being shown in white breeches all week. We had just enough time after the jumper classes to run back home, grab Cin, and head back over to the show. 

Cinder was showing with A in the USHJA 2'6" hunters, and it was a full division with 13 entries. They had two over fences and the under saddle on Tuesday. Cinder warmed up well and A was able to watch a couple of horses go before heading in for their first trip. Cinder spooked at the photographer, who was wearing a neon green shirt, coming around a corner, but otherwise we were really happy with the round. She made all the distances, got her leads, and minus the spook, was pretty consistent. She didn't place, but I figured that would happen. 

All pro photos bought from Winslow Photography

Their second round was also very lovely, and earned them a fifth. Cinder marched around the ring like she'd done it hundreds of times before, and didn't look as green as she is. I was so proud of her and A, who was also doing her first rated h/j show. 

There were some lovely movers in the flat, and I honestly expected Cinder to place middle of the pack. A rode her a touch conservatively, but Cinder was getting tired and A was trying to hold her together versus asking for brilliance. So I was shocked to hear their number called in second. I still don't believe that I own a horse that can take a good piece of the hack, but I guess I do. I guess all that dressage does pay off. 

Pro day two, and my time in show ring, to come later this week! 

Wednesday, July 26, 2023

The Fun Stuff

 Last Friday I was happy to see a few fences set up in ring for my lesson. My brain was still fried from our dressage heavy lessons and jumping felt so much easier. Our warm-up was pretty short and sweet, focusing on getting Cinder forward with minimal effort on my part. We did some shortening and lengthening of her stride to check adjustability before we started to jump. 

Cin's nickname in the barn is Hotdog, so when I saw the Mane Jane hotdog spur straps, I had to get them. Now I'm on the hunt for a hotdog charm to clip into her braids. 

We started over fences with a cross rail on a diagonal going back and forth, stopping on a straight line. We then moved on to two brush boxes that were set up on the center line with no standards. I was slightly worried because Cin can sometimes get wiggly to jumps without standards and has run out before, but she was totally fine with these. 

There were two outside verticals set and we did those in a big circle. A wanted me to make the circle big enough that it wasn't a jumper turn to them, but not so big that I was cantering in space forever. The first time through them Cin was a bit behind my leg and I had to move her up a bit to both. They weren't bad jumps, but not super great ones either. During our second pass I thought I had her in front of my leg, but when I went to steady to both fences she broke to the trot. But third time was the charm. We did a circle before starting and I made sure to rev her up a bit and both fences flowed really well. We quit on that good note. 

The barn hosted a Muddy Princess mud run over the weekend and they parked in Cin's pasture and she was concerned about it

For my lesson on Monday, A asked if I wanted to jump or flat. The same few fences were set up, along with a mini jump chute. To both of our surprise, I said flat. The jump configuration was a little boring and why waste time and effort on them again. In the trot work we did some small circles, focusing on bringing the outside shoulder around and getting Cinder to really sit on her butt. A said she wanted to play around with baby walk pirouettes, something Cin's never done. It took me a few tries to understand how much I had to whoa with my hand, but go with my leg. 

After a few attempts each way, as I was coming out of a pirouette, A told me to canter and both Cinder and I were like WTF? I asked and she kinda scrambled into it. Poor Cin felt overwhelmed but she stayed with me and kept trying. A would have us canter a few circles, back to the walk, walk pirouette a time or two, then back to canter out of the pirouette. Our attempts were very rough and much more huntery than real dressagey, but I was proud of both of us for toughing it out.  Cinder said it was very hard work and that she was very tired. I told A that it was really fun and that I like this type of dressage. 

Wednesday, July 19, 2023

My Brain's Broken

 Cinder got her shoe put back on last week and we jumped right back into the hard stuff. Trainer A has started focusing on the flying changes with Cin, and in both my lesson last Saturday and Monday we worked on them. And it broke my brain. 

Trainer A's Sea Lion filly was born a week and a half ago with mom giving absolutely no signs of foaling so everyone was super excited for SURPRISE BABY!! And don't worry, her legs have straightened out, she was like 12hrs old in this pic

To set up the flying changes, A has us schooling canter leg yields. The leg yields themselves aren't super great yet, and the spurs definitely help with them. Cinder is still in the " want to go forward fast" vs "go sideways" stage with asking for the leg yields and I tend to get a bit discombobulated trying to package her and keep her from squirting out in front of me. 

All ready figured out that she loves butt scratches

What really broke my brain was when A told me while tracking right to keep Cinder's haunches towards the right, but then push her over to the left. I legit couldn't figure out how to work my legs to make that happen. I had to stop and told A "I don't know how to do that." She walked me through what she wanted me to do, then as I picked the canter back up told me again where to place each of my legs, and how much pressure she wanted me to use. And what do you know, it worked really well. 

I'm not sure why this broke my brain so much but I think when I've done canter leg yields before they've been the kinda half assed h/j version while A is making me to the much more correct actual dressage version. Dressage is hard.