Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Lesson #201: Drunkie Pony

Writing this post is exciting for me because this lesson marked a milestone for both +ADW and myself. Ariel and Hank were both showing so I asked to be surprised with our mounts. J brings in two new geldings who recently joined the herd. One belongs to the rider I rode with last lesson and the other is a new pony meant for beginners... I got the pony (*squeeee!* I love ponies!!). Indie is a gentle pudgy sable coloured (that's like a medium brown? I'm not well versed with equine coat colours) pony with a voluminous mane.

It's the first time we got on horses where we know little background. Who knew if they'd be real jerks or spooky and skittish. In addition, without understanding their training, we didn't know what they'd be capable of doing. One of the things discovered so far is that both are wary of the mounting block. I was successful to get Indie to the mounting block so I took that small victory as a win.

First Impressions
Indie is happy with a light hand and he seemed eager to walk forward but appeared tense about having me on his back. He also required little leg and responded as soon as I applied my leg. I was asked to get him off the rail so he wasn't using it as a crutch in place of listening to my directions. Let me tell you... this pony walks like he's drunk!! LOL. He's fine to bend and turn but walk a straight line? GOOD LUCK. Without trying, we ended up doing some hind in, shoulder-fore, leg yields... It was hilarious to watch, I'm sure, but my legs were constantly trying to remind him to walk straight.

Sewing Machine Trot
His trot is bouncy like a sewing machine and he speeds around the arena when I use too much hand. Needless to say, I am a bit of a hot mess up there leaning forward and bouncing on his back trying to sort us out. There are moments of being in sync and I'm told we move well together when it's right. After getting sorted out, we're directed to go over trot poles and I have to man-handle him to stay centred (and not avoiding the entire exercise!) and he even stopped once as if to say "what the heck do you want me to do!?". J said that greenies are generally even more wriggly.

A small X was set up and at the start of the lesson, I really was not feeling so confident about getting over it. Literally, we're talking like maybe 4-6" from the ground and some horses will consider that height an insult to their abilities and will trot over it or plain ol' bowl through it. But, after success with the trot poles, I decide to go for it. I mean with such a small pony, the fall wouldn't be far and we seem to be starting to understand one another. Another win when we both get over a few times with success.

Getting Balanced
Mid-way through the lesson, the other horse starts getting unruly and even J has trouble with him when he hops on, to "win the fight". Indie and I move onto the canter now. With minimal expectations, I tell him to get into a canter and guess what? It's not too shabby either!! It's no Grand Prix Dressage display but the correct lead was picked up (though at times I wasn't too sure, with that much mane covering his shoulder) and we went round a few times. Poor pony is not fit enough to sustain it long so we go half way around and putter out.

Fight Club!
After working on all that, Indie starts defying my asks, pulls at the reins, backing up, shaking his head, stopping and all that fun stuff *sigh*. This might be the most exercise he's gotten and he's starting to protest to the amount of work and you can see he's quite sweaty too. I likened him to the chubby guy who has done for his first work out, despite not wanting to. J tells me that I just need to keep him moving forward at my insistence, regardless of gait. Thanks to Ariel, I'm no stranger to a cranky horse who is trying to take over so the 'fight' ensues... hopping, reverse, refusals... we weren't sure if I'd finish walking the arena!

To reward him for complying for our awesome small victory, I hop off and we walk the arena to cool him off. He's actually a little pushy (needy) and I have to remind him to respect my space and by the end, it's not half bad and he follows me around with his head lowered and I am able to keep my space!!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Lesson #200: Whips, Crops and Progress

I had a Thursday lesson in the outdoor jumping arena with one of the other youngsters. She just got a new horse (went from bossy mare pony previously) to a new gelding. He's still new so I don't know a lot about him. I pulled Ariel from her paddock and she's covered in mud despite only having been on there for about 30 minutes and wearing a fly sheet. Seriously. After getting right in those nooks and crannies, I saddled her and we went off to the outdoor. For some reason, it was a super busy night (usually it's just me and MAYBE one other) so both indoor and outdoor were being used.

I incorporated bending and circles into the trot warm up but noticed that my right leg tends to hug Ariel too much and she ends up leaning on my leg. During one circle, she leaned so much on my leg that she tripped--not something that typically happens. She's also more pokey and slow than usual probably because she's got a slightly heavier work load with all the kiddies wanting to ride and show her!

The rest of the lesson is mostly just working on the flat at trot and canter and transitions. I have been doing yoga this past week and notice that my balance and whatnot is better and I'm able to initiate the canter transitions more effectively. I suppose it helps that I had a dressage whip too. BTW, I didn't realize that the way to use a dressage whips is different than a crop/bat!

Riders generally know this but for those who read the blog and aren't aware... there is a continuum of severity in communicating with your horse. It's like I was always told to ask, ask louder, demand. I personally prefer not to use one because I find it distracts my position but some days, I need extra help.

Top: dressage whip; below: crop/bat

Crop/Bat: after asking and asking louder, you can demand your request with the bat/crop by angling it towards the shoulder and tapping them with it. And if that doesn't work and you need more go, get that thing behind your leg and give them a good smack with it. Nobody (including horses) like getting hit so they'll likely move forward.

Dressage whip: you hold this piece on your thigh and when you require the "demand", you simply lift it and tap it against your leg because it's flexible enough to 'kiss' their hinds to get them moving. When you're not using it, you want to avoid accidentally tapping them so direction is down a bit, against your thigh. With the dressage whip, your position remains more consistent since you're not moving your arm as much.

Back to the lesson: I tried to maintain the canter without breaking so I have to remember to sit back when I ride and not lean forward. Continuing on the flat work, I am asked to do some leg yield and wow, what a hot mess for both of us!! It isn't a very successful portion of the lesson and I'll need to come back to it another time.

To finish the lesson, I am asked to do some jumping of single jump. The first one I take is a nice low one where the pole is placed on the seat of two patio chairs (so not all that high but a good start). My first try was actually quite successful and I felt good about it. J asked me to move it up a notch and try the two wood crates/boxes that are about 2'6 in height and also a source of anxiety formerly. I am really happy to report that that jump didn't phase me at all and while my position is still a work in progress, I didn't freak out while riding into the jump and my recovery following a poor position was quick.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Lesson #199: Flat Work Faults

Our lesson on Saturday saw us get back into jumping. We've been taking it kind of easy lately so it's exciting to get back into jumping. We started the lesson with the usual trot warm up and focus on bending and keeping our corners nice and clean. We also do some exercises with downward transitions where I don't allow Ariel to just fall into the transition down. This is tough because I have to collect Ariel and sometimes it doesn't feel like anything is actually happening or my back starts to seize and I lose that movement with Ariel. I seem to only get that movement when I really concentrate on sitting trot but when I try to initiate anything else, I go from going smoothly with Ariel's movement to bumpity bumpity bump and things start falling apart.

Canter transitions upwards continue to be a struggle because my movement with Ariel contradicts when I try to initiate it and my upper body falls forward and Ariel simply speeds up. It's tricky but I have to get myself to sit back so far that it feels like I'm leaning back. The main initiator is the inside seat-bone but lately I've been having trouble getting that seat-bone in and my outside seat-bone has actually been the one that's unevenly doing what I don't want it to.

Finally, we work on jumping! The jumps set up are around 2'3 to 2'6 and I'm asked to take one at a time at the canter but with the struggles I've had, I have issues getting the canter when I want and I have to circle a few times but that only seems to discombobulate me even more. At the end of the lesson, we determine that my jumping is coming along and that I'm able to get up after the landing, even if it's not very good, quickly but the flat work is where I fall short because let's face it, I can't take that long to pull myself together. In the hunter ring, you have a limited number of tries to recollect yourself before you're disqualified--I think it's once or twice to circle. In the good news department, +ADW has started cantering the jumps too!

Who thought that after all the flat work I've been doing lately hasn't quite translated into my transitions on the flat and being able to get going when I want to. Hopefully I get the opportunity to work on transitions on Thursday night...

Monday, August 17, 2015

Blog Hop: The Liebster Award

I have been nominated for a Liebster Award by a fellow blogger whom I also know in the non-web based world; though, we do talk a lot by instant messenger. Scarletpen28 has nominated me for the Liebster Award which is an award that helps new bloggers (with under 200 followers) connect and promote each other. It also adds a bit of fun, motivation, and encouragement for newbies. It's like a blog hop so here goes!

The Liebster Award Rules

  1. Link back to the person who nominated you
  2. Answer the questions given to you by the nominator
  3. Nominate up to 11 other bloggers with less than 200 followers
  4. Create 11 questions for the nominees
  5. Notify all nominees via social media/blogs

My Answers to Scarletpen28's questions...

If you could be any animal for a day, what would you choose and why?
I love cats and I think they are probably the most hilarious and awesome animals to be around. However, I admit that their lives can be pretty dull if they're house cats. I'd choose an animal that has a very different environment and experience, I'd pick an animal of the sea. I choose a large whale like the blue whale. I could swim all over the oceans and see the world's coasts!

What is your biggest pet peeve?
Where to start... rubber neckers on the road, slow walkers, people who don't poop and scoop, crab grass... I'd pick the city raccoons (there is a family of 6!) that live in our neighbourhood and are climbing my trees, eating my raspberries, pooping in the yard and driving my fur babies bananas at night.

If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you choose and why?
That's a tough decision since I haven't seen all the places of the world. To date, I'd choose to live in Iceland. The simplicity of the land and the amazing natural wonders like the aurora borealis, hot springs, volcanoes, and being so close to nature yet close enough to the city (specifically Reykjavik) is perfect. The weather is also surprisingly tolerable for a Canadian.

What is the bravest thing you’ve ever done?
At this point, quit my comfy office job without knowing exactly what I want to do next.

Why did you start a blog?
I wanted to document and record my adventures.

What is your most impressive hidden talent?
I can't be surprised. I have managed to foil EVERY SINGLE surprise that +ADW has tried to plan for me, including the proposal :D

What is your most prized possession?
As I've gotten older, there aren't really any possessions that I prize above the people and critters in my life.

Describe yourself in 10 words.
This isn't really a question... but I'd describe myself as determined, easy-going, genuine, honest and a little obsessive.

What is the most amazing experience you have ever had?
I want to keep doing amazing things so it's possible I'll out do this one but the most amazing experience at this point is arriving at the Gate of the Sun in Machu Picchu.

When you were 5, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I don't remember what fancy or whim I was entertaining at 5 but I suspect that I wanted to work with animals in some capacity. Most likely I wanted to pursue the veterinary field or I simply wanted to ride horses and keep cats :P

Did you pursue it?
Not the veterinary field part, but the other part? Yea, part- and full-time!

What’s your go-to healthy recipe for a busy weeknight?
I'm not terribly creative and can be INCREDIBLY lazy when I have to eat for myself so I would say I've gone with a green salad with whatever other vegetables I might have on hand and some sardines or other canned fish. I add a simple oil and vinegar dressing with garlic powder (yes, I can't even pull myself together enough to mince fresh garlic) if I'm feeling like it needs an extra kick.

I nominate...

Questions for my nominees:
  1. Why do you blog?
  2. When did you get started with your horseback riding journey?
  3. What is the most challenging thing you find, about horseback riding?
  4. What is your favourite vacation spot/experience?
  5. What is your favourite novel/book and why?

POST SCRIPT: I nominated those who I know for certain have less than 200 followers. If you are reading this and would like to participate anyway, please do and leave a comment that you've done so! I'd love to read what your answers are.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Lesson #198: Winning!

The show season is in full swing and this season, Ariel's been doing amazing! She's placing at every show she's gone to and now all the kiddies want to ride her and take her to their show. Which means I have a somewhat slow and pokey pony some days b/c she'd rather be out in her paddock bossing around the other horses. Despite that, I have been diligent with keeping on top of my game with her and reminding her who's boss because I don't want another "incident" like the last.

We had another flat lesson just putzing around the outdoor going over canter poles and focusing on position and balance and all that fun stuff. I was also determined to not need the crop/bat, again so I was pretty serious with the mare right from the get go, about what we were doing. I admit, I am getting tired of kicking her to get us going when she's ignoring me but sometimes it has to be done.

The sitting trot was pretty good, and it's the first time in a few weeks that Sheri's taught my lesson and she commented that things are looking pretty good! I said that I was pretty determined the last several lessons and focused on the flat quite intensely. My hips are moving the way they should, now... and I'm not bouncing around as much and not leaning forward. But it still requires a conscious effort b/c it's simply easier not to do all that.

Then we get into canter and changed the trot poles into canter poles on the long side. My canter transitions continue to need a lot of work... We are still chasing her into the transition and she's counter flexing. I am SURE it's because of me... but what that is? I have yet to figure out. We do manage to get into the transition eventually but usually with really big mess up there. Then my right foot manages to fall out of the stirrup and so I decide to toss both and just ride it. Sheri asks me if I did so intentionally and I caught a smile crack when I told her that I managed to canter without stirrups a couple lessons ago! She laughed and said that it was pretty good considering I chickened out last time! hehe

Despite being a low key lesson, I found that there was both progress and some consistent struggles. I would hope that we might amp it up next lesson and I'd start doing some more technical things, really focusing on transitions or doing a few jumps to get me back into it.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

What the Heck to Do... part 1

... with all those crab apples!?

When +ADW and I bought this house, we didn't know what we were getting in terms of garden and yard flora. I knew that there are two cherry trees that blossomed in two different colours (spliced with a white branch on a pink tree) but I wasn't entirely certain about what else was on the property. I soon found out that I have a really cute little crab apple tree that is very hard working as far as a tree goes.

In the spring, I saw all these wonderful flowers and thought absolutely nothing other than "awwww look how pretty that tree is!" I'm a biology graduate... I should honestly know better: flowers lead to fruits! DUH. The cute little tree is now over-burdened with pink-purple-red fruits about 1.5 inches. I have no idea what to do with these things!! Ariel enjoys eating them, but isn't allowed to eat too many. My parents (who live across the street--yes, it's an 'Everybody Loves Raymond' thing) like eating them but again, only eat a handful every now and again.

As typical owners of crab apple trees think, what the devil am I going to do with all these apples?? I looked up some recipes to see what I could do... and they range from easy to a pain in the butt. I decided to try the easiest approach, slow roasting these babies with cinnamon.

You'll need the following supplies:

  • Crab apples
  • Oil for high heat
  • Ground cinnamon

Then you follow the directions...
  1. Wash apples and leave stem etc, intact
  2. Lay them in a low walled baking sheet to dry
  3. Pre-heat oven to 300F
  4. Drizzle/coat the apples with an oil good for high heat
  5. Hand mix the apples to coat with oil
  6. Sprinkle ground cinnamon and again, hand mix
  7. Pop them into the oven
  8. Roast for 1.5 hours or until the apples look wrinkly or have split skins. I'd pull one out to test after the 1 hour mark. Also, you'll note that depending on the size of the apples, the time might change.
Unexpected bonus: the entire house just smelled of apples and cinnamon. That lovely aroma alone is reason enough to do this!

Glossy apples ready to jump into the oven!

Sprinkling on the cinnamon

Slow roasted crab apples!

I was chatting with my neighbour and they said I could have them with a pork roast (savoury) or drizzle maple syrup on them and have them like that, or add ice cream! I tried a few without and then with maple syrup. They are quite tart! It's a bit of a pain to avoid the core but not THAT troublesome. I will probably be making some more (since the tree hasn't stopped) this weekend and have these ones with pork chops or something.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

A Review: 40 Fundamentals of English Riding--Essential Lessons in Riding Right

I received this lovely book as part of a Christmas gift from +ADW's mum and I am so happy to have it! There are plenty of riding books out there and I'm sure there are many that are suitable to go through the technical theory of riding and provide some counsel about addressing errors (nothing beats getting an accredited coach/instructor for regular lessons, though). This book is logically put together to break down the various basics of riding--yes, it isn't just "that simple" and the contents provide insight into basic components for beginners/novices. While it focuses on the English style of riding, the basics are applicable to any discipline of rider especially at the beginner and novice levels.

Hollie McNeil is the author and is the head trainer at Riding Right Farm in South Cambridge, New York. Hollie holds a German Trainer's License and an International Trainer's License. Needless to say, she knows a thing or two about riding.

The layout of the book is bang on. Hollie starts with basic foundation stuff such as Control, Riding Position and Riding Aids. Then you move on to the Gaits in detail and to the German Training Scale. She rounds out the book with Key Riding Techniques, School Figures and Lateral Work. These last sections are very basic and give the reader a taste of what is available. While none of this is as complete as practicing and instructed lessons, it gives a breakdown of what to look for. For someone like me, I find it helpful to understand the technicality as well as the feel of things.

The breakdown of the information is short and concise, without fluff and the images are helpful to understanding what she's referring to. I like the no nonsense approach to getting the facts out there and the DVD further complements the content. I wouldn't say this would replace lessons or that a rider could learn every little thing about riding well, simply by reading this book but it gives good basics, is technical and short enough without losing the reader.

Despite all the positives, I'm not certain I'd go out to get this book for myself to learn in place of a coach/instructor. I do find it more fruitful to take lessons but appreciate the information being presented too; I might be more likely to consider borrowing this book from the library instead, if I didn't receive it. The title of the book is the objective of the author and she successfully achieves reviewing the 40 fundamentals of English Riding within 150 pages or so and DVD.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Lesson #196 & 197: Human Banana

I worked on the same things during the last two lessons in an effort to continue to improve.


I started with flat work in trot at sitting trot, with and without stirrups. I've been working on this so much lately that I have had actual progress. To add to the complexity of this section of the lesson, we ride in the outdoor arena which has a course set up so we weave in and out of the jumps with lots of bending and circles. One thing I notice is that I seem to have an uneven seat that causes Ariel to counter bend and drift out of the arena. Often by the time I realized it was happening, it is too late to correct it and I struggled with looking like I was drunk while riding.

I need to get my positioning right and my lower leg needs to move back a bit and I have to sit up more... like a human banana bent backwards and not forwards.


Cantering transitions continue to be difficult as I can't find consistency in striking off. Sometimes we speed up at the trot or absolutely nothing happens unless I'm holding a bat/crop. However, I want to do this all properly, without the need for artificial aids. I am reminded to drop my inside seat bone while sitting the trot (or walk) and sweeping my outside leg back while sitting up and back. This is more than a mess at this point but I'll be continuing to work on it in the next lessons.

Same here, my positioning is the one thing that is most affecting my poor communication to Ariel. More thoughts on the human banana.


I'm not sure why but I've felt like jumping these last two lessons so I took a few tries. I went with a single jump for now since it's courses that throw me off... the first jump has been fine and then I become a discombobulated mess following leading to an increasingly messy course. I took whatever jump was set up that was on the quarter line and I wasn't intimidated at all. I still need work on the approach but the actual point where we take off and fly over has been fine. J tells me that I've been going over the 2'3" jump without any hesitation so that's good! It's a matter of refinement and consistency while going over. Hopefully it'll come together again and I"ll be jumping those courses again.

The ride in, should incorporate the human banana but a 2-point isn't so much a human banana...


My goals for riding include the 2'3" course with consistency and getting my fitness levels up because my biggest barrier is actually my physical limitations and not so much mental. Opening up my hips and getting my back strong again will help me get into that human banana shape much more easily.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Quick and Easy: Pizza

I have been shopping at the local farmers' market lately and I found this gluten-free round from Molly B. The suggestions include breakfast rounds and personal pizzas. I don't lead a gluten-free lifestyle (I love bread so much!) but I do try to avoid eating too much, so sometimes I'll get something "gluten-free", just to mix it up.

The instructions are SUPER easy and best of all, no defrosting needed.

  1. Pre-heat oven to 400-450F
  2. Put the frozen round on a cookie sheet
  3. Spread tomato/pizza sauce on each round
  4. Vegetables: I used, green peppers, red onions (lots!), garlic, tomato. You can add quite a bit if the round is not flimsy
  5. Fresh cracked pepper and oregano (or basil)
  6. Meat: 3-4 slices of spicy capicola, porcheta and sopresetta 
  7. Cheese: I had gotten sliced Finlandia Lappi cheese lying around so I used that

Pre-oven pizzas

Then I popped the whole she-bang into the oven for 10 minutes or until toppings are bubbly.

Finished product--'zza!!

The finished product was way better than I expected!! I will use more cheese next time and maybe even more toppings... I"m going to see what I should do, to "max it out" without falling apart :D

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Riding In Iceland

I received an email from a reader about my trip to Iceland and how I handled the disinfecting of riding equipment. I realized when I was responding, that I never actually posted any resolution about how I did handle this aspect of my trip. So, to help other equestrians who are thinking about going to ride in Iceland, I have a summary of what I ended up doing and some details I encountered while I was doing the research.

Note: as I did run out of time during my research, I wouldn't say my summary is complete but this should be a good start for those looking; my information is also specific for equestrians so anglers or hunters or vets need to do more research.


Iceland is an island nation that has its own population of horses, called the Icelandic Horse. Their horses are not vaccinated against any seriously infectious disease. As like any isolated country, their biosecurity measures are meant to protect all their flora and fauna. Anglers, hunters and equestrians alike need to take appropriate biosecurity measures to protect the ecosystem during their visit.

Researched Options

When I spoke with my small animal vet, she told me that vets generally travelling to different animal populations practice 2 weeks prior and 2 weeks post travel, to avoid any contact with animals, period. That is a very general practice and wouldn't hurt to employ, if you can. But, I was never asked to do this for my travels.

Travellers can approach this requirement by two options:
  1. Prepare prior to travel: riding clothes like pants and tops should be wet washed and dried (or dry cleaned) and then "rested" 5 days prior to going. Boots and half chaps can be washed and dried and then further disinfected with Virkon-S or a similar disinfectant (you can probably find this at most tack shops). Then you can get your veterinarian to write up a letter, sign and stamp it to certify that you have completed as needed.
  2. Address the requirement upon landing in Reykjavik: if you want to do things in Reykjavik, you'll want to stay longer than a few days. There is a service available at the airport called Icepark. They can do all that stuff for you (they also do this for anglers and others) but hold things for a few days before providing them back to you. I didn't go this route and didn't further investigate it but it sounds like it could prove to be logistically challenging.


There are limitations about certain items that absolutely cannot be brought into the country... such as used riding gloves and any used horse tack. The reasoning behind this seems to be that there is a high chance that these items would come in contact with equine fluids such as saliva etc so were simply prohibited to tourists to bring.

Keep in mind though, that Icelandic horses have their style of tack and plus, it's probably not possible to know the size of your mount. Gloves on the other hand are not terribly expensive so it likely isn't a major issue to get new ones for your trip.

What I ended up doing...

I didn't end up getting the veterinary certification that was referred to me because I ran out of time. I did have correspondence with a representative from MAST, the Icelandic Food & Veterinary Authority, as well as my small animal veterinarian. Because my trip was not solely focused on riding and I wasn't staying a long time (over a week), I did as simply as possible. I washed my riding clothes (as directed) such as tops and bottoms and then bought new gloves (I didn't have winter gloves anyway), and used the rest of their equipment when I got there.

Because of the amount of stuff to bring and the coordination that would be involved, I didn't think that doing more was worth my time. However, if your trip is more horsey focused or longer, you might feel otherwise.


Check out the MAST website (English version) and contact them to get more information. They are helpful but you'll want to do it well ahead of time so you don't run out, if you need more extensive information.

Bonus Tip

I found taking photos or videos was easiest with a mounted camera such as a GO Pro to keep your hands free during the ride.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Lesson #193, 194 & 195: Dogged Determination

There hasn't been a lot to report on, in the last couple of weeks. That, and I spent an afternoon in the local ER due to a health related concern that I don't have answers to, quite yet. I'm not the type to worry until I know what there is to worry about... we'll know when I demand some tests from my regular doctor. In addition, whatever it was took me out for a week and I'm still having some difficulties being 100%.

But enough about the boring stuff that remains a mystery and out of my control; let's talk about the last 3 lessons! We focused on flat work. I hadn't been feeling up to any jumping and I wanted to gain some mastery with the sitting trot rather than continue to bounce around on top of Ariel. So away I went... lesson after lesson doing nothing other than sitting trot.

J pointed out that he knew when I was doing it wrong (that is, absorbing the motion incorrectly) when the pony tail hanging down my back was bouncing along with me. He reminded me to sit back (which feels like I'm leaning right back) and to absorb with my hips and abs. Apparently it's a momentary "on/off" contraction of muscles; as solid contraction or lack thereof would result in the incorrect motion. So around and around I went... with and without stirrups. Sometimes it was successful and other times (often) it wasn't. I also got into some canter just to keep things interesting and I practiced the dreaded figure 8 exercise that would have the transition of the lead at the centre of the figure. I determined to do the simple change since that was what I was struggling with in the past. I would say things were getting better since I was able to accomplish that when I asked (and when I was late, Ariel did the autochange for us). I also mustered the courage to canter without stirrups since several lessons ago, Sheri asked me to do it but I totally chickened out. I did it!! It started out as me losing my stirrup and going around without them. I came back down just fine so figured, this might mean I can do it without, period! It is tricky though... because it's easy to grip with your knees and curl forward because the horse is speeding up or you're getting nervous.

One of the things I did struggle with remains the smooth and consistent canter transitions as well as my own twisty body. Transitions remain tricky as I tend to lean forward when asking and thus putting Ariel on the forehand. I also wanted to get the transitions without the need for artificial aids like the bat/crop. Like most horses, Ariel sped up when her rider is holding one but I that meant that i was doing something wrong when she would speed up the trot or simply ignore me. I spent my lessons determined not to use them until I was pretty beat fighting with the mare. My twisty body added to the complications and I would torque outwards and so Ariel was doing the same counter bend. Actively telling myself to open up my chest and keeping my shoulders down and back was really challenging since all the other stuff needed my attention too.

During the last lesson, +ADW and I swapped things up again and I hopped on Molson while he practiced his sitting trot on Ariel (apparently the easier of the two). J teased me and said that if we were to do that, I'd need to jump on Molson. I felt more myself and confidently accepted the challenge. We didn't do anything exciting since anyone jumping with the "King of the Long Spot" usually would crap their paints after riding a horse like Ariel. Molson and I went off just fine even though he did his usual power up 3 strides into the jump and I did my usual "omg I'm going to die". We didn't do half bad considering I was crapping my pants up there but I needed to give him more of a release. Yea right. Give more release to a horse that tends to drop his front end. The trick to try? Place both my hands on his neck as we are coming into the jump to give him the release and to get my into the right position over. Worked like a charm! If you can maintain the courage not to pull back and just go with it.

So while it wasn't back with me jumping the 2'3" course, I did pull myself together enough to progress with the sitting trot and got over the fear of riding jumps with the Molson.