All posts by Karen

Aurora Arabian Horse Show.

It was an exciting two days for me and my bay mares at the Aurora show in Ponoka. The excitement started when I unloaded them in Ponoka to discover that Izzy had pawed her way right through the stall mat in the trailer! Then when I led them into the barn, Dani walked right into her stall, but Izzy had no intention of stepping over the threshold. It took about 5 minutes of convincing to get her into the stall.

Once I got them settled in their stalls with water, bedding and feed I went to check in to the show office and to check my ride times for Saturday: they had me riding Dani at 7:37 am and 10:48 am for her training level tests, and Izzy at 11:56 and 2:41 pm for her English dressage…the problem was they then had me riding Izzy at 3:01 for western dressage and Dani right after! Not sure how they thought I could do a complete tack and outfit change  in 14 minutes. Fortunately the show office managed to move my times up for the English dressage, and I found a friend to hold the girls so I could ride back to back for western dressage.

Before the dressage day though, I had Dani entered into the evening classes in the main (indoor) ring. The arena in Ponoka is huge and echos, and Izzy hated it last year. By 5:30 they had finished the afternoon classes and so I could take Dani in to see the indoor arena. She was so funny! “What’s that?” (It’s a saddleseat horse Dani) “Oh, What’s that?” (It’s a horse lunging Dani) “OMG, WHAT IS THAT!”, (it’s a horse being walked in a red cooler Dani) “Oh. Oh, hey, that looks like Java! Hi horse that looks like Java, HI!” (Shh Dani).

After about 20 minutes the arena got too busy so I took Dani back to her stall to relax, with her class scheduled for 6:30. I was able to ride her around the show ring a bit more right before the class while she continued to gawk, but as soon as the class started she settled right down to business “Look at me, I’m  a SHOW HORSE”. Arabian shows are kind of fun because you trot in through the in gate to make a grand entrance, and Dani marched in with confidence even though she was the first to go in.

The class itself was not what I expected. I half wonder if the judge thought it was a show hack class (it was a junior Sport horse under saddle class. Junior meaning horses 5 and under). She asked us to walk, trot and canter, and lengthen at walk, trot and canter. We also reversed in a lengthen walk, which was very odd. Dani managed the lengthen trot, but for the lengthen walk and canter I just gave her a looser rein. She placed 2nd in that class!

We then had well over an hour of a break before her next class, which was purebred Arabian Sport horse under saddle, Limit horse. Limit horse means they haven’t won 6 first place ribbons. This class started more normal, with no lengthening at the walk or canter, But then we reversed at walk…and then right away had to canter, then trot, then lengthen the trot, then back to working trot, then canter again, then trot, then walk, then canter a THIRD time, then walk and head into line. Three right lead transitions. It was very odd, and poor Dani was tired, but she managed to be second place again!

It was a long night though, and I didn’t get to the hotel until after 9:30 where I enjoyed my McDonalds dinner…yummy sundae, and cable TV.

Then up at 6 am to check out and braid Dani for dressage! Again she was a star. The dressage was outside, and they had padlocked the arena so nobody could school in the dressage ring. They were using an SUV for a judges booth (it was cold).

For a warm up ring we could either use the indoor warm up that was shared with the main ring classes, or a rocky uneven field. I chose the field because it was closer and less busy. Dani was just doing training level so her warm up was mostly walking, with just a tiny trot. (She was fascinated by the train in the distance)

Dani has NEVER been in a dressage arena, but she didn’t bat an eye! She managed to get over 60% in both her tests, and was second in the junior horse class.  Very happy with her!

Then it was Izzy’s turn. Izzy warmed up fine and felt relaxed….but then we went into the dressage ring and it was like she had been zapped. She was electric, and not in a good way. Poor girl. So we started our first level test, and I am going along and I think I hear a whistle (which would tell me I was off pattern), but I knew I wasn’t…but sure enough the judge was waving me over. For some reason when they moved my ride times to accommodate the western dressage, they put my harder test first…but didn’t tell me. Fortunately the judge was accommodating and allowed me to start over. Unfortunately she slammed the car door after talking to me….zoom went Izzy!

Our lengthened trot may have involved some canter, and our lengthen canter may have involved knees coming up well past horizontal. Sigh. Our second level test wasn’t much better…she had great moments (scored 6.5 and 7 for our shoulder in) and WTF moments like our canter serpentine when she picked up a disunited canter after our first simple change. Still she managed to get a score above 60% in that test for a 3rd. We were 5th at first level.

Finally came the western dressage. I know the show photographer got some good pictures, so can’t wait to see them! (although the photographer was the one holding Dani while I rode Izzy and vice versa, and apparently Dani thought it was fun to bump her elbow when she was taking a picture.)

Izzy was so much more relaxed although still too high in the neck. I did manage to do the test neck reining (one handed) which is a first for me! I rode Dani second and I could tell she was tired, yet she had the bounciest trot and canter she has ever had! All I could think about was how much I had to pee…and that my boot had come untied when I switched horses.

Dani’s test started ok, but then for our first canter she did a little buck…which is unlike her. It wasn’t until after I found out why: her tail had gotten stuck in the pin holding her number to the saddle pad!

Even with her little buck she managed to beat Izzy to win the class. Poor Izzy was coming up short compared to Dani at every turn!

I was done showing by 3:15, but then had to wait close to 2 hours for the tests to be scored and placed. (and then when I went to load I found someone had parked in a way to block me from getting the horses in the trailer…fortunately that was quickly resolved). Home for 7pm.  Exhausted but thrilled with Dani! Also met some really nice people at the show and had a relaxing time away from the demands of the farm.

Dani & Izzy at the Aurora Arabian horse show May 2015
Dani & Izzy at the Aurora Arabian horse show May 2015

First Shows of the year!

In one weekend Hillside completed our first two shows of the season. On Saturday, Beaux, Jack and Rohan went to Mapleleaf Meadows for their first shows. The weather was good, the footing was dry, and once again it was a very friendly atmosphere to get horses and riders some show experience.

Jack and Beaux both did classes from the 3″ class, to the 2’0″ hunter class. By the end both horses (and likely riders!) were pretty tired, but Beaux came home with two red ribbons from the pole class, and Jack a 5th in a jumping class. Rohan and I did the cross poles as well, but we were unjudged…Rohan did great though!

Rohan also competed in training level dressage: we didn’t go early enough to school in the arena so his first sighting of their indoor arena was his first class. He wasn’t sure about the flowers or sunspots around the edges! Still he did very well, and scored a 63% in his first test, and 70% in his second test, which was enough for a first.

On Sunday we took Duncan, Zander and Izzy to Killerney. Izzy just went to hang out: I figured that was the only way I would have time to ride her. Zander and Duncan went in the 2’3″ divisions. Unfortunately there was an unexpectedly frightening jump: white rail with a driftwood log underneath. In warm up, pretty much all the horses that hadn’t done the 2’0″ needed strong convincing to go over it!

Zander got over his fear of  the log and managed to place 5th, 4rth and 1rst in their three classes. Unfortunately Duncan was  scandalized by this unique jump and wasn’t able to accept that it was supposed to be there!

So be prepared for some “natural” looking jumps in upcoming lessons!

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Show Updates

I have added another possible show to the show list. Devonridge farms (West of the city) has announced their show is being held the last weekend in June. Hunter classes are on Saturday, and jumpers are on Sunday. The Prize list is posted in the barn.

Vegreville Ag Society has also posted their show prize list.

I am planning to take Izzy and Dani on Thursday for the Dressage, and then on Saturday for the western. If anyone wants to do the jumping or under saddle classes on the Saturday, let me know! It is a different kind of show: no ribbons for adults…instead there is prize money! And quite reasonable entry fees.

I will be looking for a groom for the Saturday (August 8th) if anyone is interested in holding my lovely Arabian mares for back to back classes 🙂

Also…if anybody is able to go afternoon chores next weekend (Saturday and Sunday) let me know! We are at shows both days, and not sure when they will end!


Sunny Days!

I am hoping we can lesson outside this week, so come prepared! A light rain will not stop me, so dress for the weather. If the wind is too strong we will be inside though, but otherwise plan to be OUT. Sunglasses may be wise.


The first outing of the year…

The Central Alberta Western Style Dressage Association held their first Schooling day of the year at Fultonvale Arena this past weekend.  The weatherman forecast wind, but  thought we could beat the wind by going earlier. I was wrong. And you know what? Riding green horses outside for the first day of the year in the wind is perhaps not the best idea. Particularly when there are banging metal shutters, gates that won’t stay closed, and trees falling in the forest (with horses there to hear them). Fortunately Dani was too busy peeing and flirting with the boys to be too bothered, but Friday thought it was quite exciting…at least he looked good.

If anyone is interested in trying western dressage, just let me know. They are holding some online (video submission) shows this year that might be fun to enter!

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Had my first ride outside today: took Izzy out back for a little walking trail ride.  It was a little slipperier than I expected, but not too muddy. I was surprised by how much snow there still is in places! I think Izzy remembers me burying her in snow up to her elbows last spring, so when the snow got up to her knees she took over the steering this time.

Then when we came back Spock wanted to ride, so we went over to the round bale so he could get on board and then Spock helped me school Izzy over the drainage ditch. Seriously, if there is ever a crazy cat lady trail class, Izzy and I are so ready.

On another note, we have the clinic this weekend as a good way to kick of a new season of riding! The schedule is posted on the top right of the website. I am hoping it won’t need any last minute changes, but please take a last minute look to be sure!


Day one of the clinic

On day one of the clinic  Izzy did well over a little cross pole exercise, but then we were to do an oxer, with a ladder on one side and a lattice on the other. I may as well have been asking her to jump over our house. Sandra kept taking pieces of the jump down until we ended up with half a cross pole and poles on the ground…and this was Izzy finally clearing it. After this she was ok with it. The next day neither the lattice nor the ladder were an issue.

The Arabian Eating Jump
The Arabian Eating Jump

2015 Sandra Donnelly Clinic

Izzy and Zander (w/Cadence) attended the Sandra Donnelly clinic this weekend. The first day was a little exciting for both horses: new arena, jumps stored at one end and people and pulled pork at the other end! The flat work was simple the first day, just some work on staying consistent and straight. Jumping started with jumping 3 jumps on a circle at the far end, 3-4 strides apart. Izzy did that well, but then the plan changed to jumping the circle and then going across the diagonal to an oxer. Unfortunately the oxer was brown rails with a white ladder on the approach and a lattice on the offside. Izzy absolutely did not understand that it was jumpable. Sandra took away the lattice and ladder and made it HALF a cross pole and poor Izzy still didn’t want to jump it! When we finally went over it was quite a launch! Unfortunately Rob did not video…

The second day we did more flat work, including some shoulder in at trot, and shifting from full seat, to “light” seat to two point at canter. For jumping we progressed to jumping a line across the diagonal with the jumps set straight. Izzy didn’t care for either end of the arena so the jumps set really close to the ends were a little interesting, but she was overall very brave and willing.

Zander was really good and liked the exciting course today so Sandra let them jump a bit bigger. He is a pretty clever horse!

Some video of Izzy from the Second day

Jan Clinic with Sandra Donnelly.
Jan Clinic with Sandra Donnelly.

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Lesson Plan Jan 26 – Jan 31, 2015

For this weeks lessons the focus is going to be on hands. Hands are one of the key components for communication with the horse. Improperly held/used can cause miscommunication, and at worst can cause unjust pain to the horse.

The idea of bit communication is not to cause pain, but rather a tool to communicate. I like to compare it to holding someone’s hand to stay together in a crowd, or to guide a blind person. You don’t want to yank the person’s hand to guide them (unless they are in danger!), but nor do you want such a weak contact they aren’t really sure what you want.

The two biggest issues I see are hands that are held to open, and hands that are allowed to get flat.

Open hands are an issue for a few reasons. The main one is that they create an inconsistent contact with the horse. A horse tends to learn to protect itself from this inconsistent contact by carrying a stiffer jaw and resisting this type of contact. There is also the risk that if the horse pulls the reins will slip, and the horse will then learn to pull to get a release/reward! Finally, a rider that rides consistently with open hands won’t learn proper feel as the reins will be held along the fingers and not along the palm as we want.

Flat hands are an issue as this twist the bones of the forearm and slows the feel and reaction time of the rider’s hand and arm. It also pulls the reins away from the neck, so you lose the added cue for the horse of the feeling of the rein against the neck.

Hands should ideally be held at a slight angle, similar to the angle of the horse’s shoulders. The thumbs should be folded over the top of the reins and make a roof holding the rein. The knuckle of the thumb should be pointed at the horse’s ears, and the hands should be about as far apart as the horse’s ears. The fingers should be bent in a loose fist, with the reins against the palm of the hands. The fist should not be tight like you are trying to strangle the reins, but should be tight enough that if magically turned into hamsters, you would not let them squirm free!

Holding your hands only as wide as the horse’s ears, means the reins will be against both sides of the horse’s neck when the horse is straight. This is important, as you want the horse to feel when the rein comes away so it learn to listen to this cue! The issue is that this pull of the reins tends to make riders want to allow their hands to get flat…you need to get used to this feeling and keep the reins against the neck unless you want to turn or flex their neck!

Now if you want to increase the pressure against the neck, it is important you don’t cross the hand over the neck as you will twist your body and be off balance. Instead turn your hand so your pinky twists closer to the neck. This will bring the rein against the neck without twisting the body.

If you wish to use the rein to encourage flexion/turning of the head and neck, it will have to come away from the neck, but you don’t have to exaggerate this movement) unless you are schooling flexions). Just move your hand enough that the rein is off the neck…if more is needed it needs to come from your LEG. Don’t exaggerate hands to make up for weak leg!

When jumping, it is additionally important the hands stay together as we want the horse to be quite straight through their neck and body so they approach the jump in balance. It can help to think of neck reining (using outside rein to steer) more than pulling to steer. At the jump the reins should follow either the crest of the neck (forward and slightly up) to release, or follow down towards the horse’s mouth. There is no reason to lift the reins UP and away from the neck on the approach or at the jump. The release MUST be along/beside the neck.

So to work on this we will have some turning exercises as well as a grid! I might have  a “tool” to help remind people to hold their thumbs up and hands close as well…


Date/Schedule changes

Please note, the first day of herd health has now been moved to Friday the 6th, rather than Wednesday.

This Saturday’s morning lessons have been cancelled, but I can teach at 3pm if demand warrants. The lessons are cancelled as Candence, Zander, Izzy and I are attending a jumping clinic next weekend! We ride from 9:30-11:30 on Saturday and 8:30 – 10:30 on Sunday. I will post the address in the barn in case anybody wants to come. There is no charge to watch!

I have also posted information for the Jane Stone clinic in the barn: I already have two people signed up to haul in for the clinic!  To register for the clinic I just need a cheque and to know when you wish to ride, and if you want to do jumping or dressage. I will have a sign up sheet in the barn soon, but payment is required to confirm a spot.