Our CBLM Finals Recap – What Would Hilda Think?

Getting ready for the victory lap

Getting ready for the Training Level awards ceremony

Phew!  We are now back to reality after living in Horse Show World for 4 days.  Horse Show World is a world unlike any other that I exist in on a daily basis.  Your entire day revolves around your equine family member.  You drag yourself to the barn in the dark to make sure that your beloved horse eats at his normal time.  You realize that your horse is a rather slovenly stall keeper who likes to watch you mine for the poop piles.  Your hands get chapped from fishing out water-logged hay from the water buckets four or five times a day.  Seriously, Ike, why must you leave so much hay in your buckets?  The day’s activities are predicated on what time you need to begin your grooming/tacking/warm up in order to make it down centerline on time.  If you have two rides, this process might have to be repeated…But wait, you can’t leave the show grounds yet, since then you must wait for the class(es) to end to determine if you must frantically retack your horse to make it to the mandatory mounted awards ceremonies.  Even after you scramble to get there, you have to have your baby situated for the night before you can even consider a shower and a real meal.  And who hasn’t driven back to the show grounds for one last night check?  If aliens are watching us, they must think that our horses are in charge and we are their servants.

Ike and I after our First Level final 10th place finish

Ike and I after our First Level final 10th place finish

I am tickled to say that Ike and I finished out our 2014 show season with placings in both of our finals classes.  Yes, can you believe it?!  Both of them.  If you had asked me what the outcome would be, I would have told you that we might have pinned in one or both of our warm up classes, and had a slightly better than average chance of placing in our Training Level Final, but we’d be lucky to be in the top half of our First Level Final.  There were about 30 horse and rider pairs in each of the final’s classes.  Yikes!  When it was all said and done, we came home with a first place in our Training Level Test 2 warm up class, a 5th place in our Training Level Final, and a 10th place in our First Level Final.  [Shhh, don’t tell, I teared up when I realized I placed in each of my final’s classes.]

Here is video from the First Level Awards Ceremony – it cracks me up that Ike seems to realize that we were announced and that the crowd was cheering for him.  I have to say that I was so proud of Ike marching right into the Coliseum like he had done it before…I feared having to walk around by myself while Ike ran freely around the show grounds: 

It finally felt like validation for all our hard work.  We can do this in spite of all my self doubt and my lack of experience.  We started the season with the Hilda Gurney Clinic in Maryland and I can’t help but wonder what she would think of us now.  We were still trying to find a show worthy canter in April, and I am happy to say that we found it this past weekend.  The season that started off with scores of 5.5 for our canter work, ended with 7’s for both the left and right leads.  And let’s be perfectly honest, I wouldn’t be at this point without a cadre of amazing people who have helped Ike and I to establish our partnership.  Thank you to you all!!  If I try to name them all, I fear that I will inadvertently forget someone.  But I must say a special thanks to my husband who is my greatest cheerleader and supporter – I love you dearly for supporting this crazy horse habit!



Feeling Hot, Hot, Hot!


So it is definitely July in the mid-Atlantic region.  That means green head flies, horse flies, countless house flies, heat and humidity.  Ideally you would ride very early in the morning and avoid the blazing sun.  But since I must work to support my equines in the life style to which they have become accustomed, poor Ike has had to endure rides and lessons in the heat of the afternoon.

Our progress since the start of the season makes me think that there is hope that we will escape First Level.  It might not be this year, but it is a realistic goal for 2015.  Some of our biggest strides have been with Ike’s canter, his lateral work, and my riding skills.  I’m pretty certain that there is a direct correlation to Ike’s improvement with my improved skill set.

Ike’s canter has been a challenge to say the least.  Knowing that our starting point was a “Scooby Do” canter, there really wasn’t anywhere to go but up.  As long as Ike is not spooked and I stay focused, his canter is slower and more rhythmic.  I still need to have better following hands as was pointed out to me by Hilda in the spring and more recently by Ms. C and Debbie Bowman.  I also need to remember to use my outside rein to regulate Ike’s stride rather than keeping my death grip on the reins.  The slower more balanced canter has allowed us to have success with the shallow canter loop while schooling at home.  Time will tell if we have success in a show environment.

Our lateral work is coming along nicely.  With my increased knowledge of proper leg, seat and rein aids, Ike and I can now perform respectable leg yields (still can’t stick the solid 8 leg yield every time), shoulder in, haunches in, and trot half pass.  The ability to break down Ike’s body and move specific body parts is huge for me.  We really want to avoid any more comments about my horse not bending and looking stiff.

I’ve also made great strides with my ability to sit Ike’s trot…one of those key skills necessary to make it to the next level.  I still struggle with maintaining a sitting position during the trot lengthening, and I positively bounce in our canter-to-trot transitions.  I keep reminding myself that this is a journey and that it isn’t going to happen in one day or even in one year.  In the mean time, I’ve upped my abdominal strength with unmounted exercises and will keep building my sit trot time.  It has also helped that Ike now has a stronger topline that can tolerate my bouncing. 🙂

With the hotter temperatures, we are very careful with our schooling – shorter lessons with more focused and quality work.  We take frequent water breaks and Ms. C will hose Ike to help keep him cool.  I’ve discovered Absorbine’s new Botanicals Natural Herbal Liniment Rinse (http://www.absorbine.com/products/muscle-care/absorbine-botanicals-natural-herbal-liniment).  It is a perfect way to cool Ike down and relax his muscles after a challenging lesson.  I’ve asked Ike to swab some on me, but have yet to be successful.  It is tempting to give it a try – the rinse has a refreshing odor that might mask my post workout aroma.

There is a slight reprieve with the sweltering temperatures and we will take full advantage of it for the next few days.

Happy Summer Riding!





Did You Ever Believe That You Would Be Where You Are?


Believing in yourself can be hard at times.  While you may have supporters standing with you, there are just as many people who will look at you and place doubt in your mind.  “Is that the best she can do?”  “Why is she still trying?”  Sometimes you can be your own worst enemy and feel like you will never make progress.  It can be hard to turn off those negative voices since they sometimes scream louder than the positive ones.  The voices in my head seem to like to chatter right when it is time for bed…

You can easily lose sight of how far you have come when you look at the journey that still lies ahead or you are bogged down trying to master one particular new skill.  It sometimes takes someone saying something to you to make you appreciate the progress that you have made.  That someone, in this case, would be Ms. C.

After my last preparatory lesson earlier this week, I was getting Ike settled and cleaning my tack.  Ms. C was working on evening barn chores.  I mentioned that at the upcoming show, I would be riding First Level Test 3 for the first time ever.  Yes, that is right, the first time EVER.  She turned to me and asked, “When you started taking riding lessons (back in 2005), did you ever think that you would be where you are now and have had the opportunity to ride with Hilda?!”  I paused for a moment.  No, if you had told me then that I’d have a wall filled with ribbons, that I’d fly to Florida to find a horse, that I’d own a horse like Ike, that I’d get to ride with Hilda Gurney, or that I’d be getting ready to school Second Level dressage, I would have cackled like a crazy lady.

That conversation got me thinking that while I was still a newbie in the world of dressage, I had still come a long way from being a first time dressage rider in 2006.  It is well known that I struggled to progress with Cigar, but much of that was his unwillingness to play nicely.  But, in his own way, he taught me persistence, patience, and how to keep my butt in the saddle.  When he retired, I felt confident enough to purchase a very green, very big 3-year-old horse.  In just a few months shy of 3 years, I can now say that I have successfully shown him at Training Level and First Level.  Not a meteoric rise, but I am proud of what we have accomplished.

With that said, I am looking forward to our second show of the season this weekend.  I can hold my head up high as we head down centerline.  We have done all we can do to get ready for our First Level Test 3 debut.  Here’s hoping we can silent those negative voices again and celebrate our next milestone!




Yes, there is very exciting news from Ike’s Centerline Adventures!  Well, I should say that I am beyond giddy at the news;  Ike was nonplussed and continued to munch his hay and enjoy the unseasonably warm day.

I guess I should back up first.  Late last year, I received an e-mail from USDF (along with every other USDF member) announcing that Hilda Gurney would be the clinician for the USDF Adult Clinic Series (http://www.usdf.org/education/clinics/adult/index.asp).  She would be in Region 1 in April 2014.  Riders interested in being demonstration riders were invited to apply.  What the heck, I said to myself, go ahead and apply.  It cost nothing to send in the application.  How many other opportunities will you have to have a lesson with a former Olympian?

So I gathered up all the necessary information for the application:  Ms. C’s recommendation, my show record, and my clinic history.  I scoured all the videos that we’d taken over the past year and culled the best out of the bunch – one of a Training Level test, the only one I had from our one First Level test, and some leg yield video from a lesson.  In early January, I emailed the video links to USDF and mailed my completed application.

Then a week after I mailed it, I was launched and the snow began to fall with regularity.  Phew,  good thing I had some decent video already.  And then the wait began in earnest.  And we waited, and waited.  In an e-blast from the USDF Region 1 director, it was noted that there was a record-setting number of rider applications (37).  Oh, hmm, our chances seemed slim.

And this morning, there was an email from USDF with the subject line, “USDF Adult Clinic Region 1 Selected Riders.”  My stomach did a flip flop as I pressed the button to read the email…would we be on that list?  And there it was under the bold heading – Selected Riders  – Alison Thompson on Commanders Eisenhower!!

EEEEEEKKKK!  I read it three or four times and squealed like a little kid on Christmas morning.  The dogs went crazy as I jumped up and down.  I stared at the screen for another minute before I grabbed the phone to call my husband.  “Guess who was selected for the Hilda clinic?!”  He was thrilled for me.  My second call of course to was Ms. C.  She was very excited for us as well.

Now there is a real deadline for getting out of our wintertime lax schedule.  There is much to be done.  Ike needs to get back into the working mindset.  I need to get myself back into riding shape.  The new boots need to be pulled from the box and broken in before April 12th.  There is no way I’m showing up with my pathetic schooling boots.  Need to get the trailer inspected.  Should check the pads and white polo wraps to make sure they are presentable.  And there is the matter of Ike’s hippie mane that needs to be tamed.  I also suppose that the goat hairs should be trimmed and all the mud removed from his legs and tail.

The list will continue to grow, but tonight we celebrate!