The takeaway from this past weekend is “Even when progress appears to be stagnant, Never Give Up.” 

 Why, you ask?  Well, Facebook reminded me that it was one year ago on March 26, 2015 that I wrote a blog about being “ Stuck ” and feeling all together depressed about my lack of progress in moving up the levels.  In March last year, Ike and I were just not ready to test the waters of Second Level.  So we continued showing First Level and schooling our collection at home.  Later in the season we did finally test the waters at Second Level and earned scores anywhere from 59% up to 64%.  Not bad, but nowhere near where we would need to be in order to make it to the regionals.

 So this winter we worked hard on the skills needed to up our Second Level scores.  More throughness, more hind end engine, more collection, and more tactful riding.  But I still wasn’t certain that it would be enough to compete successfully at the local licensed shows.  Region 1 has A LOT of talented riders and freakishly talented horses with jaw dropping gaits.  And they are very good at getting high scores on a consistent basis.  So I had decided that if I couldn’t get mid-60 percentile at schooling shows, that I would not throw my money into any licensed shows.  My dime would be better spent on more lessons.

 My internet search turned up a March 26th schooling show about an hour away.  The facility is a stunning eventing facility (https://www.morningsidetrainingfarm.com/ )  that runs a combined training/dressage show series.  Most of the folks who attend are there for the combined training show, but a few dressage only people invade the property at the end of the day.  I made sure that the calendar was clear and that Ms. C could attend, and then threw my name into the mix.  We signed up for Second Level Test 1 and Test 3 to establish a baseline for the year.  Where would we end up??  Well, it turns out, this show is best summed up as “A Tale of Two Tests.” 

Test 1 was pretty solid.  The judge told us that we needed to commit to our medium trot and that she knew there was more to Ike than he gave me in the test.  She explained that I should use the corners better to set him up for success in our medium gaits.  We also had one over exuberant simple change, but overall, though she seemed to like our ride.  I believe that I even remembered to breathe throughout the entire test – that alone is a big accomplishment.  While we didn’t see this score until after both rides were complete, I am happy to report that we scored a respectable 67.12%!  What?!  There is hope for us yet!  Here are the videos of the first ride…my phone decided that it is best viewed in two parts:

Second Level Test 1 Part 1

Second Level Test 1 Part 2

I only had two riders before Test 3, so we really just kept Ike relaxed and his focus away from the misbehaving horse being schooled in part of the warmup.  My hope was to implement the judge’s suggestion for my medium trot and to maintain the dreaded canter serpentine without Ike thinking flying changes.  Well one out of two isn’t bad.  We had two very respectable medium trots, but our first serpentine was a hot mess.  We fell out of our canter in the second loop of the serpentine.  Poor Ike was fired up and even my quietest canter aid sent him to the moon with the wrong lead, a disunited canter and finally the correct lead.  The horse breezing on the training track also gave us so much extra oomph for our second medium canter that I was not certain that I’d show any comeback.  Can you say “unfortunate tension?”  And sadly, our turn on the haunches were wrought with Frankenstein-like stiffness.  Unfortunately, our mistakes were costly, so while I did manage to get a 6.5 and a 7 on our medium trots and a 7.5 on our transitions in and out of the medium trot, we ended up with a 58.659% due to our costly mishaps in our canter work.  Tension is definitely not our friend. 

While I was hoping for two scores in the 60th percentile, I am okay with the outcome of the outing.  Ike was a perfect gentleman on his first outing of the year at a very busy schooling show.  He didn’t even react to the “flying horses” in the jump ring or the loose horse on the cross country course.  Ms. C was very pleased with our work for the day and is working on a game plan to improve the low scores.  We left the show with some new found confidence and the feeling that we are no longer “stuck” in the lower levels.  

Happy Spring Everyone!  We look forward to seeing everyone this season! 






“Your Horse”

Ike with new browband March 2016

I had an epiphany the other day.  No, it wasn’t about my riding skills or some huge life lesson.  Nothing that profound or life changing.  What I realized is that when the first words out of Ms. C’s mouth are “Your horse” or “Your horses,” the words that follow are usually not, “is an angel” or “are a pleasure to have around the barn.”  No, the words that follow usually are more along the lines of, “ran me over” or “tried to kill me.”  This must be what it feels like when a parent has a conference with their child’s teacher.

And here lately, my boys seem to be very busy since I hear that phrase usually a few times a week.  Since it is so common, I thought I’d share some of the stories with you…

“Your horse….is icky.”  It is no secret that Cigar is a wee bit of a pig boy; he has been this way from the first day I owned him.  He gleefully wallows in any puddle or mud slick and will try to bite me or run away when I attempt to remove the filth.  Unfortunately for me, he has now lead Ike down the path of muddy ickiness.  And I have discovered that if your unclipped horse sweats profusely on the abnormally warm day in March, the sweat combines with the winter’s worth of crud to create a sticky paste that doesn’t want to rinse off.  You can create little spikes of hair to make your horse look like a punk rock band member. Since it won’t rinse away, the next time to see your horse, the hair is matted together and nearly impossible to brush.  At this point all you can do is hope that it rains and that your horse stands out in the downpour for a few hours.

“Your horse….looks like a plow horse.”  I suppose that I must raise my hand and claim responsibility here although I’d like to think that Ike must bear some of the burden for this as well.  We hear this when we are trudging around the ring on the forehand rather than engaging Ike’s rear end for more power.  Sure, just half halt and all will be right in the world.  Wrong.  If I was a stronger person, a subtle half halt might do it, but on plow horse days, I sometimes have to resort to some louder tugging and a few jabs with my spurs to get the young man’s attention.  (Yes, I heard you gasp in horror.)  Once I fuss, Ike usually will comply and we can then move along more like the Second Level pair we aspire to be.  And once Ike is engaged, it is amazing how much easier walk to canter transitions are and how much more of a push I can get for a medium trot.

“Your horses….tore down the hot wire.”  My boys are bound and determined to live together.  They check the status of the hot wire on a daily basis.  I can hear them asking each other, “Did someone forget to turn it on today?”  Deconstruction commences as soon as they realize the power is off.  I have reiterated to them that I do not agree with this course of action since I cannot afford to build a new wing onto Ms. C’s home for the vet to use.  My admonitions seem to have little effect on their daily activities.

“Your horse….looked like a rodeo bronco.”  Thankfully, Ike rarely shows off his rodeo skills while under saddle.  If you have followed us for a few years, you know that it did not end well for me the one and only time he bucked while I was astride…I showed off my gymnastic skills with a single front flip, but unfortunately I did not stick the landing.  Routinely while stretching his legs in his paddock, Ike can be seen happily kicking up his hind legs.  I cringe in horror as I play out the worst scenarios in my mind that involve strained muscles, torn ligaments and fractured bones.  Any attempts to explain to him why this is not appropriate behavior fall on deaf ears.

“Your horse…is very tall.” I usually hear this either after Ike has spent the day rearing while playing with his brother or after Ms. C has ridden him.  I suppose that I am now so accustomed to his burgeoning girth that I no longer give it much thought, except when it is time to replace tack since most standard items won’t fit.  Not everyone carries 18 inch browbands or blankets for big and tall boys; this reminds me of when my mother would shop for my brother in the “husky” boy’s section at Sears…clothing with a little something extra.

“Your horse….is crooked.”  Yet another time that I must share some, if not all, of the blame.  It is most noticeable with our right lead canter.  I know all about positioning my horse in a slight shoulder fore position, but just because I know about it doesn’t mean that I can tell if I have achieved the correct position. Usually we fail and Ike carries his hind end to the inside as we canter down the long side of the arena.  Any judge who is paying attention will comment, “haunches in down long side,” but I am usually so focused on maintaining the correct rein length and praying that I can slow down the freight train at the appropriate point that I cannot spare a thought on where Ike’s haunches are.  We are diligently working on it in our lessons.  In my defense it is hard to know what is going on behind me when there is so much of it back there.

My horses might be a handful, but they are mine. They make me laugh and smile and bring joy to my life.  I hope your horses do the same for you.


Equestrian Realizations


I found the above quote on my friend’s Facebook page called Live Awesomeness.  She posts inspirational posts to remind her friends to live the best life they can.  We all know there is a beginning and end, but it is what you do with the middle that defines who you are.  Having horses in my life has really helped me to grow and come to some conclusions that, while I’d been told these things before, I had to learn the lesson for myself before it really took hold.  While many of these Ah-ha moments have come to me while engaged in equestrian pursuits, I have found that many carry over into the rest of my life.  They have probably been stated elsewhere more eloquently before, but here they are in my own words:

You must trust completely and be worthy of being trusted.

 Be effusive with your compliments and respectful with your criticism.

 If you are going to hand out criticism, be willing to listen when it comes your way.

 Never stop learning.  You do not know it all.  No, you really don’t.

Hard work on a less talented horse will usually get you further than laziness on a talented one.

 There is no such thing as pure white around horses or dogs.

 Be as strong as an ox, as graceful as a ballerina, and as mentally strong as Rosa Parks.

Check your ego at the barn door or your horse will do it for you.

 Be someone’s hero.  The cost of an apple is nothing compared to the nicker you will get from the horse who’s owner never visits the barn.  It costs nothing to smile at a fellow competitor or wish them good luck. 

 Remember to breathe. 

 Be willing to laugh at yourself, especially after you knock down the dressage arena right in front of the judge.  Just remember to wait until after your final salute.

Be grateful for the horse you have. There are many who don’t have a horse to love. 

Believe in yourself and your horse even when no one else does.  Only the two of you know how hard you have worked and what obstacles you have overcome to get to where you are today. 

Be happy my friends!  Alison




Finally, the Hiatus is Over

Feb 4 2016

When I was a child, my family owned boats – a daysailer when I was very young, then we sized-up to a 25 foot sailboat, and finally, we shifted to motorboats which were better for fishing.  My mother used to call them “holes in the water that we throw money into” since it seemed sometimes that the boat spent more time at the dock than on the open water.  But, even when the boat was stationary, there were still expenditures that drained the bank account.  A few years ago, my parents finally plugged the last hole and got rid of the boat.

Now that I own horses, I better understand what she was saying.  When I am forced by powers beyond my control to cease all riding, it can be very frustrating.  Even when I cannot ride, there are still board checks to write, vet bills to pay, and apple expenditures.  So after 15 days of no riding, I finally got my butt back in the saddle and rode Ike through the slushy remnants of the blizzard.  Desperate times, people, desperate times.

Fortunately, some warmer temperatures melted those last stubborn traces of the snow and the ring was back to its pre-snow condition.  I took full advantage of the situation and scheduled a lesson with Ms. C.  She had warned me that the horses had displayed their naughty wintertime behavior earlier in the day.  One of the horses she rode decided to exhibit her airs-above-the-ground skills.  So with that cautionary advice, I heaved myself onto Ike’s back and began my warm-up.  Just when I was lulled into a false sense of confidence, Ike reminded me that he could at anytime be in charge of our ride.  Luckily I kept my ass in the saddle and quickly regained control.

In my lessons, we have dabbled with flying changes and half pass in preparation for Third Level, but the focus is mainly on the basics – is your horse through and working over his back?  Is your horse straight?  Seemingly simple concepts in theory yet challenging when you add motion and power.  Ike can certainly give the outward appearance that he is through at the trot, but I know when he is faking it.  The challenge is then to correct the lack of throughness.  There are times that the only way to establish it is to go back to the walk.  It is usually easier for me to win the argument while moving slower.  Once we achieve the throughness, we then are starting to add more power.  Note to self:  You had better get into better aerobic shape in order to ride that powerful trot!

Straightness can still elude us at times…well, for full disclosure, it happens more often than not.  Yes, we can regularly trot a straight centerline, but straightness at the canter and on a circle or bending line?  Hmm, I struggle to know what is going on with the caboose.  I can think we are going straight, but if you look at photos or watch videos, you can see Ike’s hind end is not quite on the same track as the front.  And while I know that we should be cantering with a slight shoulder fore position, I struggle to know if I have achieved that correct positioning.  Ms. C frequently asks me if I think I have a straight horse; I frequently respond with, “Maybe.”  Needless to say that is not the correct answer.

Things get even more challenging when I try to recreate the throughness and straightness when I ride on my own.  Do I have it?  Should I praise Ike?  Or did we completely miss the mark and I’m rewarding the wrong thing?  The struggle is real, but thankfully, I have learned that I am not alone with this struggle.  I’ve found a group of like minded dressage riders on Facebook.  We lament working on our own and worry that we are doing more harm than good.  Luckily some riders with more wisdom reassure us that our horses are forgiving creatures.  Most of them want to please us.  Stop worrying about making mistakes – it is part of the learning process.  Just enjoy the journey even when you end up on the long road.

So the plan is to enjoy the unscheduled time off from riding to just enjoy my horse’s company and stop kicking myself when we make mistakes.  Success comes when you dust yourself off and try one more time.



Snow Here, Snow There, Snow, Snow Everywhere

Ike January 25 2016

Ike has a strong opinion about this amount of snow.


So the blizzard of January 2016 (Winter Storm Jonas for those who think winter storms need names like hurricanes) is finally over.  The region started digging out yesterday and it will be a few more days before things really start getting back to normal.  While folks like me who board their horses worry about digging out our cars so we can make it to the barn when roads are clear, those who have horses at home, have had to cope with horse care through the entire storm.  My hat’s off to you…opening barn doors and gates with falling snow and snow drifts, coping with stir-crazy horses, praying that the power stays on so that the well pump will work, and slogging through the snow with numb fingers and toes.

This snow brings back memories of February 2010.  Cigar was boarded at a nearby facility at the time.  It had a metal barn with an attached indoor.  The owners were out of the country at the time.  I was home from work when the call came…my friend G was on the line, and the first words out of her mouth were, “First, your horse is okay.”  “Second, the indoor collapsed during the night, but luckily, the shared wall held up and the barn did not collapse.”  I held my composure enough to call my husband who left work to take me out to check on things first hand.


The collapsed indoor from February 2010



The shared wall that thankfully did not collapse.


Some higher power must have been looking over our horses that night.  It is nothing less than a miracle that the shared wall did not buckle and trap/injure/kill the horses.  Steel beams were twisted like twist ties.  I can only imagine what it sounded like as it came down.  Metal panels still groaned with the continued weight of the snow.  The horses were taken to stalls and paddocks at the neighbor’s farm while we all contemplated what to do next.  I was lucky enough that Ms. C had an open stall and said it was ours if we could get Cigar to her farm.

The next day, I drove out ahead of my husband to begin the fun task of digging out the trailer.  Challenging? You bet.  Exhausting? Yep.  But I was single-minded that my horse would not spend another night in an icy paddock.  You could see that he had paced the fenceline all night not understanding why he could see his barn but not be in it.  Again, I was lucky that he did not slip and injure himself.  A couple of hours later, the trailer was freed from its snowy parking spot and we were on our way to Ms. C’s.  Thank goodness that my husband is an excellent snow driver.  People must have thought we were crazy for hauling a horse after all that snow.

His driving skills were put to the test yesterday since the roads out Ms. C’s way had yet to be touched by a plow.  Even the F-250 almost got stuck in the deep snow.  Thankfully it did not and we were able to visit with my very badly behaving horses.  On Sunday, Ike had taken the paddock gate off its hinges earlier in the day and managed to cut his fetlock while doing so.  It was superficial and caused me more angst than it did him.  The boys had also torn down the hot wire fencing so a mere snow pile was keeping them in their own paddocks.  I suppose I should be glad that neither of them have shown any jumping talent.  We also watched Ike show off his extended trot to buck transition since seeing my husband and the truck set him into a frenzy.  I guess he thought he might have to go somewhere…

Today, with the fence between them repaired, the boys were calmly eating hay when we arrived.  Ike showed us his giraffe imitation as he checked out our arrival.  No running today…phew.  Luckily Ike has also recognized the error of his ways and no longer stands on the ice that has formed in the water trough.  Falling through into the frigid water below has deterred any more circus elephant balancing acts.  They gladly accepted peppermints today as I mused about how long it would take for the snow to melt in the arena.  Come on sunshine, do your thing!

Mom is a Cootie Queen

Ike Jan 2016

Happy New Year!  Hope all my friends are doing well.  Things are good here at the farm especially since I haven’t had to go anywhere since before Thanksgiving.  It has given me time to catch up with my barn buddies and contemplate the writings of Baruch Spinoza.  He is credited with saying, “I have striven not to laugh at human actions, not to weep at them, nor to hate them, but to understand them.”  No offense to Mr. Spinoza, but how can I not laugh at human actions?  I guess he hasn’t met my mother or her friends.  It is a veritable comedy routine of hilarity for my pals and me.  It is beyond comprehension why they do the things they do, but we sure do get a good chuckle from watching them go about their day-to-day lives. 

Mom has apparently had an alien take up residence in her head because she has been sick since the day after Christmas.  While my brother and I do feel bad for her, it has meant that I have had a really nice break from the rigors of regular training.  She has tried to claim that she was “better” on a couple of occasions, but when she can’t make it through a 30 minute ride without blowing her nose 10 times, I would argue that she it is time for her to see the vet.  If I had a runny nose for that long, I would have been poked and prodded multiple times and been subjected to yucky syringes of ground up medicine disguised as apple sauce (you are fooling no one Mom!).  Can someone please make her an appointment?  Hopefully Dad knows how to grind up the pills and fill the syringes.  Now there is a funny image of Dad cramming medicine-laced apple sauce in Mom’s mouth. 

When she does claim to be “well,” Mom has only been able to ride me two or three days a week.  The rainy weather has also kept her from asking Ms. C to ride me.  It is hard to get away with anything when Ms. C starts riding me.  She is very smart and wily and is quick to fuss at me if I try the tricks I try with Mom.  What makes it even worse is that Ms. C then shares her thoughts and findings with Mom.  Shhh!  I have diligently worked to develop those evasions.  Why are you telling Mom my secrets?!  It is fun watching Mom fumble about trying to figure out how to stop me from grabbing the reins. 

I am not bored though with all my time off from my dressage work.  Cigar got a new halter for Christmas; he gets one every year since his halter gets pretty ratty over the course of the year.  Now, I don’t want to incriminate myself, but I may play a role in the halter’s annual demise.  Mom got a different kind of breakaway halter this year.  It has a short leather piece that breaks if necessary.  Well, the second day Cigar wore it, the new halter fell off into the mud.  It could be poor quality leather or poor workmanship in the construction, but noooo, Mom blamed me for the broken piece.  Umm, Mom, it was over on the other side of his paddock, so maybe Willow broke it.  You have no concrete evidence that I was involved.   That is all I have to say about that matter. 

Mom also fussed about the missing hair on my forehead.  As you can see from my picture, it really isn’t all that bad.  The first time she saw it, she wanted to poke it with her finger.  Seriously?  You want to touch my wound with your cootie-covered finger!!  I stood very tall, got accused of being a giraffe, then she got serious and put my halter on my head.  Thankfully, she wised up and cleaned it with a washcloth and put some ointment on it.  I didn’t get to read the label, so hopefully it will protect me from Mom’s germs. 

And, Mother Nature finally got serious and colder weather has returned to Virginia.  That means that my big blue blanket finally made an appearance at the barn.  Mom was tickled that it still fit me.  Mom had it laundered at the end of last winter.  Not sure what was in her Koolaid that day, since the very first day she put it on me, I christened it in the mud in my paddock…Hahahaaaa!  There is also a slight tear in the shoulder, but I have no knowledge of how that happened.  To my equine friends reading this, a fun game to play with your human is the Blanket Sidestep.  Quietly watch your human get the blanket situated to place on your back.  This can take a while if my Mom’s pace is any indication; be patient – it will be rewarded.  Right when they are ready to lift it onto your back, quickly sidestep away from them and watch the blanket fall on the floor/in the shavings.  If your human is anything like my Mom, it will drive them crazy.  Good times. 

So sorry, Mr. Spinoza, I  am going to have to disagree with you about not laughing.  Life is too short and my Mom is too funny.  I’m going to laugh even if it is silently.




Ike Dec 30 2015

Here we are at the end of one year and on the cusp of a new one.  Wow, another year complete.  I guess that means it is time to reflect on our accomplishments and progress for 2015 and set some goals for the year to come.

Ike and I really became “big kids” this year when we jumped into the Second Level arena.  It is still one of the proudest moments in my riding career when I did my final salute after that first Second Level test.  Seems silly to some, but after taking lessons since 2005, I finally have clawed my way out of Training and First Level purgatory that has been my place of residence for 10 years.

We also finally have a musical freestyle that I cannot wait to try in public.  Yes, I still need that test 3 qualifying score before we can break loose at a licensed show, but there is always the schooling show circuit to invade.  Be thankful that this musical performance does not involve me singing in any way, shape, or form.

And while we did well at First Level and had some respectable scores at Second Level this year, there is room for improvement. It is a double edged sword when your trainer gets a few trips on your horse.  You preen like a peacock when she tells you what she likes, but then, you hold your breath knowing that the next words will be, “But, you have some blocks to work through, you need to be more through in your trot work, and not let him cheat on the flexions.”  Sigh, you knew there was work to do, but this is the nitty gritty stuff that is mind-numbing, tedious, and technically challenging to get right.

And that is exactly what we have worked on during my last two lessons.  Flex left, flex right, left, right, left, right. Now just give Ike a “fin” and he will be ready for the next Jimmy Buffett concert!  But in all seriousness, it is amazing how hard it can be to achieve a proper flexion and then maintain it in motion. Jaw jutting and bracing.  Neck muscles bulging and blocking.  Head diving down and asking you to carry it.  A certain someone sometimes likes to grab the bit and straighten his head and ignore subtle requests.  Well, perhaps if the other someone was quicker at catching things, flexions wouldn’t be such a constant struggle.  So there, goal number one is to be more focused while in the saddle.

Ms. C also pushed us to achieve more consistent throughness with all our trot work- straight lines (“Ask for more power!”), circles (“Your hind end is leading again.”, “Turn your horse!”), small serpentines (“Watch that hind end as you change your bend.”), shoulder in (“Where is your flexion?” “Be more supple.”) and haunches in (“Again, watch your flexion.” ” You look stiff.”) I am so busy worrying about one of Ike’s body parts and what it is doing that I forget about the rest of Ike.  I suppose with time that it will become second nature, but for now Ms. C has to be that broken record. I bet some days she wants to pull her hair out.  Let’s make it our next goal for 2016 to be more proactive to save Ms. C’s hair.

Remarkably, as the show season came to a close, our best scores were for our canter work.  Our simple changes are becoming more consistent and our medium canter is miles ahead of our medium trot.  The next step for our canter is to straighten Ike’s body since he almost always carries his haunches slightly to the inside.  This necessitates me recognizing the problem and then learning to ride canter in a shoulder fore position.  I had better figure it out quickly if I want to achieve my final goal of riding a Third Level test in 2016.  It is my most challenging goal, but why not aim high. 

Thank you for continuing to follow Ike and I as we forge ahead with our centerline adventures!  May your year to come be healthy, happy and exceed your wildest expectations.







Ike selfie Oct 2015

The end of the year finds me clearing out old emails and organizing my paper files to make room for the upcoming year’s correspondence.  As I was working my way into my older emails, I came across an email from July 14, 2011 when I was horse shopping.

It had pretty much been decided that I was headed to Florida to horse shop.  I was receiving emails from Bianca who was sharing details of the horses she had available that 1) were in my price range and 2) were rideable for someone with my skill set.

This particular email gave details about Ike.  The email read:

“So here is the video of the 3 year old gelding. This one is very special, only 3 years old he is solid at training level and just so rideable. Super sweet natured and just wants to learn and please his rider. This boy will go very far as a dressage horse as he develops more muscle. He is extremely safe and sane, non spooky and just a gem to handle. He loves people, loads easily, clips etc. All in all a wonderful horse!”

Here is the link to his video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PsWTfVKnTe8

I smiled as I read this because it was a pretty spot on description of the horse that ended up as part of the family.  I watched this old video and it made me smile.  While he looks quite solid with Bianca riding him, I like to think that he has shown progress in these subsequent years with me as his primary rider.  He is at least more muscled than he was as a three year old.

November 2015

I sometimes wonder where the other horses landed since my budget only allowed one to come home.  I hope their owners are as happy with their equine partner as I am.  Fingers are crossed that Bianca was right and that there is still more to achieve with our dressage aspirations!






How To Dance With Your Horse

It has been a while since Ike and I have offered up a “How To” blog.  We’ve tackled the subjects of assembling a double bridle and taking holiday photos, so it seems appropriate that we provide some advice on the subject of creating a musical freestyle.  If you recall, we discussed freestyles two years ago…and that was as far as it went.  But now we have a freestyle for next season, so I thought I’d show you how “easy” it is.

  1. Watch Andreas Helgstrand ride Blue Hors Matine at the 2006 WEG freestyle finals: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zKQgTiqhPbw
  2. Watch Juan Manuel Munoz Diaz ride Fuego XII at the 2010 WEG freestyle finals: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hx3a4nNO3ak
  3. Go to bed and dream of riding a musical freestyle with your horse.
  4. Wake up and daydream of riding a musical freestyle with your horse.
  5. Attend a Dance with your Horse clinic with Michael Matson (www.equimusic.com ) and receive a CD of walk, trot, and canter music. We did in March 2013.
  6. Download free music editing software believing that you can edit your music and choreograph a freestyle routine.
  7. Curse at the computer when you realize the “free” software also downloaded “free” advertisements.
  8. Curse at the computer some more as you try to delete the “free” advertisements.
  9. Open music editing software and stare blankly at the computer screen. Heads up – it has as many knobs and buttons as a 747 cockpit.
  10. Mutter more curses softly under your breath as you attempt to even play your music with the software.
  11. Wish you had paid more attention in music class in elementary school as you try to recall musical terminology.
  12. Close software and drink wine.
  13. Stare at the software for another week to finally figure out how to play your music. Rejoice at this small victory.
  14. Drink wine to celebrate your cleverness.
  15. Delete software from computer when you realize you are not clever enough to edit music.
  16. Watch Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro at the 2014 London Olympics: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DcDLLxgWa_Y
  17. Find a friend who wants to do a musical freestyle as much as you do.
  18. Celebrate when your friend organizes a musical freestyle clinic.  Thank friend profusely.
  19. Have Michael M. determine your horse’s beats per minute (BPM) at the walk, trot, and canter.
  20. Ride to various pieces with the correct BPM and pick the music that suits you and your horse the best. (FYI – after 2 years of training, Ike’s BPM changed and we received new music.)
  21. Stare in awe as Christine Betz (http://www.christinebetzdressage.com/ ) choreographs a routine for you in well under an hour.
  22. Memorize your choreography.
  23. Drink wine AFTER you learn the routine.
  24. The next day, ride the routine so Christine can time each of the compulsory movements for the level.
  25. Try to hide your shock when she edits the music in under 20 minutes.  Again wish that you’d been more attentive in music class as a child.
  26. Ride your freestyle for the first time (You might need to turn up the volume to hear the music well) You will see that we will need to adjust our entry-

Second Level Freestyle Take One

27. Go home and drink wine and count the days until you can ride your new freestyle!

So, you see, it isn’t all that difficult…get out there and dance with your horse.  I promise you that you will be hooked!




The Final Push to the Finals

Ike selfie Oct 2015

Hello Friends!  Yet again my mother claims to be too busy to write to you about our preparations for the Region 1 GAIG Finals this coming weekend in Lexington, Virginia.  Sheesh.  So that means that I am taking charge.  How are my friends supposed to know to send good luck vibes unless they know when and where I will be?

We had some down time last month because of the weather.  It rained and rained and rained and then the cooler weather came rushing in.  The cooler air means that my brother and I decided it was time for our fence line games.  We like to walk to the far end of our paddocks and race back to the water trough.  He isn’t as fast an agile as he used to be, but he will try his best.  Mom got mad because I somehow managed to scrape some hide off the front of my hind leg with my front hoof.  I don’t know what she is so worried about.  I didn’t hurt myself.  She is such a fun sucker sometimes.  She also frets that I will slip and fall during my hijinks.  Does she not have any faith in my athletic ability?  It should be me worrying that she will slip and fall…she can be such a klutz sometimes. (I watched her hit her head on the stall door as she ducked under the stall guard.  I stifled my laugh, but I have to tell you that it was pretty funny!  But don’t tell her that I told you or I might not get to borrow the laptop again.)

I’m glad that it is getting colder since my winter coat is growing in pretty thick this year.  Mom will probably still make me wear my blanket even though I really don’t need it – I feel like Ralphie’s brother in A Christmas Story when I am all bundled up when no one else is wearing anything.  We should all be glad that Mom doesn’t try to clip me.  I would look like I’d been shaved by a blind woman using her feet to hold the clippers.  I hear it is supposed to be very cold in Lexington this weekend, but better that than too hot.

When Mom and I did get back to work after the rain, Ms. C said that I was looking very fit.  She also complimented my canter and how much it had improved since last year.  Mom is the one who bears the brunt of the criticism since she is the one making all the mistakes.  I always try to do what she asks, but sometimes she is not clear about what she wants and I have to guess.  I try and bail her out as best I can.  There is only so much a fellow can do in some instances.

Part of Mom’s problem might be that she can’t see very well.  She has these things she wears in front of her eye’s that supposedly help her see.  Many times though, I catch her squinting.  Other times, the things on her eyes are so dirty that I’m not even sure she can tell if I am clean or dirty.  The lack of eyesight might explain why we make ovals instead of circles when we are practicing or why we miss X when halting.  She had to go see a special doctor and now she is complaining that she had to buy eye things call bifocals.  I will have to run away if she shows up with more eyes on her head.

Mom and I had our final lesson this morning.  We rode our final’s test from start to finish, then Ms. C made Mom judge each of the movements and next asked how she could have made them better.  Haha!  See, it is all Mom’s fault when we do things wrong.  Well, I do sometimes make it hard for Mom to do some things, but a fellow can’t be all work and no play.  I like to think it keeps her on her toes and sharpens her skills to a certain degree.  Ms. C felt that our trot work was where we could pick up some extra points, so that is what we schooled for the rest of the lesson.  She made us focus on riding accurate 10 meter circles with my body in the proper alignment.  That is HARD!  Mom and I also worked on our leg yields since there is a tendency for my hind end to get left behind.  When we get it right, Mom says we get good scores.  Let us hope she uses her corner to help set up the movement properly.

Well, all our homework is done.  I get the next 2 days off to rest.  Mom has lots of packing to do and has to go to work.  She says that without work, I would not live the lifestyle that I’ve become accustomed to having, so I encourage her to work hard at her job.  She tells me that unlike apples, money does not grow on trees.  That’s okay with me since I like eating apples.  I leave the money eating to my brother.

I promise to try my hardest this weekend.  Mom promises to let you know how we do.