Random Thoughts


This has been a low key week after the whirlwind activity of last weekend.  I have been bombarded with real life after living the carefree life for four days in Lexington, Virginia.  Sadly, the magic house fairy did not clean the house while we were gone, the laundry fairy did not wash and fold the four loads of laundry we generated at the Finals, and the work fairy did not complete any of my pending projects…Thus is the life of an Adult Amateur who has to work to support her horse passion.

There were no epiphanies this week, so all I have to share are my random collection of thoughts.  A small window into the internal workings of my brain.

I feel I must give another shout out to my amazing husband.  If you recall, he patiently drives Ike and I to all our clinics and shows.  I trust him completely to get us to where we need to be in one piece.  He calmly told me after Ike was in his home paddock that we had no trailer brakes for our return trip.  Yikes!  You have to climb and descend Afton Mountain on the interstate we use.  Not a good place to have no functional trailer brakes.  It just underscores the importance of the appropriate tow vehicle for your horse trailer as well as the skills of the driver.  Thank you Ford for our reliable F250 diesel truck.  To you crazy people that pull fully loaded two or three horse trailers with a Jeep Cherokee, I am talking to you.  Rethink what you are doing.

It is time to restart our First Level training in earnest.  Our lesson this week with Ms. C included schooling trot and canter lengthenings.  Ike can show a comeback from a trot lengthening, which is really only 4-5 decent strides of a half-ass lengthening of his stride followed by 4-5 strides of gangly young horse movement.  Hey, he is only 5 and not one of those freakishly talented horses that are showing second level already.  He will get there soon enough.  Our canter is another story entirely.  Our working canter is still a work in progress; it can look like a canter lengthening on any given day.  When I do ask for more, he is more than willing to do it…the comeback, well, that is almost non-existent.  To get any change my half halt is HUGE and not worthy of public display.  I think he has been talking to his brother who encourages more speed and lack of listening.

Sadly, my body is starting to show its age and my many years of running are beginning to haunt me.  For the past month, I’ve struggled with extreme cramps in my right hip when I start my ride.  It takes my breath away and forces me to stop until it passes.  Thankfully, once I get warmed up, the cramps stop.  I only made it through Finals weekend cramp-free with large doses of Tylenol before and after my rides.  I am diligently practicing yoga and praying that it fades away as quickly as it appeared.

Finally, where did fall go?  It was present last weekend, but decided to make an early exit.  In its place are temperatures normally not felt until late November in the mid-Atlantic region.  I need time to adjust.  I am still dressing like it is fall and paid the price today at the barn.  Brr, blue fingers are not normal and make half halts that much more challenging.  I guess I really need to get Ike measured for his new blankets sooner than later.  If this weather is any indication of the winter to come, it is going to be a cold one.  Time to win the lottery and buy that winter home in Wellington!


Snow, Snow, Go Away

IMAG0270This photo about sums up what Ike thinks of this late winter/early spring snow and cold weather.  Pphhtthhbbbttt!  Just when he decided to start shedding his winter coat, Mother Nature decided to unleash the snow flakes.  How are we supposed to prepare for our upcoming shows when we are grounded by the crappy weather and I’m stuck at home shoveling the sidewalk?  I’d even foolishly loaded up the winter blankets to take them to be cleaned.  Guess I will hold onto them for a few more weeks…my poor car will just have to be perfumed with “eau de horse blanket” for a little longer.

The best thing about snow this time of year is that it doesn’t stick around for long.  Hopefully we will be back in the saddle again Tuesday afternoon when the temperatures return to the 50s.  My recent rides have reminded me how much work there is to get done before show season kicks into high gear.  I set high expectations for myself and Ike.  What can I say – I am a perfectionist at heart and it irks me to get a 6.0 or 6.5 when I know we are capable of 7.0’s and higher.  I’m pretty sure that the judge’s at the licensed show aren’t going to be giving away scores just because Ike is cute.

Our centerlines are still rusty.  We are in good shape until it is time to trot on after our halt.  If I’m not careful, Ike likes to giraffe his neck rather than staying soft in my hands.  “Look over there!  I think there is something I need to see.”  Ugh.  Then we wobble and bobble, and our straight line gets wavy.

Trot circles are okay as long as the rider doesn’t overbend Ike’s neck.  Canter circles are stronger than last year, but there are still days I worry that we might knock over a few rails of the arena.  If Ike gets a bit too forward, then it is debatable on whether or not we will down transition in the right place or just in the general vicinity.  If I half halt too loudly, we trot too early.  If my half halt is too quiet, then we bound along like Tigger for a few extra strides.  Either way we get nailed by the judge.  Boo hiss.  I’m still hoping that dressage scoring considers dropping the high and low scores like ice skating before calculating your final percentage.  Don’t think it is going to happen in the next month, so I’d better keep working.

No progress on show season grooming.  Perhaps that is something I can work on while Ike hides in his stall from the snow flakes.

Keep thinking warm spring thoughts!

I am Goldilocks?

011So it is Sunday night and I really don’t have much to say.  Why?  Because somehow I have not been in the saddle since Friday.  Friday was an awesome day to ride.  Temperature was near 60 degrees and the sun was shining – one of those Goldilocks kind of days – not too hot and not too cold, but just right.  The weatherman told us that we were going to get snow Friday night into Saturday morning with snow showers all day Saturday.  I hear there was a dusting of snow north of us and some heavy snow showers south of us, but we received nothing.  Not a single flake.  I wish I could be that wrong at my job and still have a job.  Geez.  We did have cold rain Saturday morning and crazy cold winds today.

Am I becoming a bit of a Goldilocks in my old age?  I mean I could have ridden yesterday since it was just cloudy by the time I made it to the barn, but I opted to love on the boys and hand out treats instead…I could have layered up and ridden today, but opted to just hand walk Ike instead of wrestling with my tack and the stiff, cold leather.  Is it a bad thing to be a bit of a fair weather rider?  I’ve done my fair share of bad weather riding.  I’ve been mounted when it started snowing, sleeting and raining.  Been on my horse when the lightening started lighting up the sky.  Had the runny nose and tearing eyes from pollen or cold winds.  Had numb fingers and toes and chapped lips.  Almost suffered heat stroke in the middle of the summer.  I have decided that it is more than okay to be a weather wimp.

Before the cold weather returned, Ike and I had a great ride on Friday.  I love the rides where everything flows.  Transitions are easy.  There is no nagging to get the rhythm I want.  My half halts seemingly are given at the right moment.  I would like to say that Ike and I are starting to “get it.”  Instead of being a horse and a rider, we are partners.  What an amazing feeling that is.  We will continue to have our Goldilocks days where I do too much or too little when asking for an up transition or my half halt is more like a halt.  I will continue to wimp out on the really cold days, but I promise that this rider will continue, in spite of the weather, to swing her leg over Ike’s back to be the best she can be, runny nose and cold toes and all.

Think Spring!

004As I write this, winter storm Nemo is invading New England.  I hope everyone is safely at home and all their animals are also sheltered from the blowing snow and wicked cold.  Virginia was spared and my emerging daffodils, peony tips, and Rose-of-Sharon buds are thankful.  Seeing my flowers begin to return to my garden beds reminds me that spring is not that far away.  If we can make it through February, any winter weather that decides to visit in March usually doesn’t stick around all that long.  Good thing since I’ve seen some dressage schooling shows on the calendar for March, and by April, winter is just a memory and we can look ahead to pretty days spent at the local show grounds.

I’ve spent some time looking at the available shows and trying to plan Ike’s second show season.  He spent his inaugural year doing Intro classes at licensed and schooling shows and then transitioning to Training Level only at schooling shows.  Because of the classes and shows we entered, I didn’t have to empty the pocketbook to obtain my USEF Membership, my USDF Participating Membership, Ike’s USEF registration, and Ike’s USDF registration.  Since our goal for the coming year is to qualify for the USDF/GAIG Region 1 Dressage Championships, I had to bite the bullet and empty the checkbook to get us street legal for licensed shows.  I’m now scraping together the funds to enter the necessary shows in hopes of qualifying.  I’ve also got my checklist of things to get done before our first scheduled outing on April 29, 2013:

1) Get the trailer inspected.  The inspection sticker expires this month, so hopefully the weather will cooperate and it will get done so that we are safe to travel.

2) Clean out the trailer dressing room.  I’m really not certain how the chaotic state happened, but every time I open the door, I cringe.  Okay, I lie, I KNOW how it happened, but I’m just in a deep state of denial that I actually let it happen.  I am so anal about everything else at the barn that it is so wrong to let the dressing room exist in such a state.  Unfolded blankets, a Christmas gift bag with trash, unidentifiable packages of stuff, and none of it where it should be.

3) Try on my show clothing.  Need I explain why this is necessary?  I did already purchase a new pair of white gloves for this year.  The ones I have been using since 2007 are the color of dirty street snow and it is time for them to retire.

4) Condition and polish my boots. Dreadful, but necessary chore.  I’m seriously considering paying the local shoe repair place or a Marine to do it for me.

5) Tame Ike’s mane.  Yes, there will be a spa day coming up soon.  I openly admit that I am not proficient at pulling and thinning a mane.  I compare it to plucking my eyebrows,  I do the bare minimum to prevent unibrow for fear that I will overpluck and be left with bare skin where hair should be.  My greatest worry is that I will pull too much mane in one place and not enough in others leaving no alternative but to roach it and pray for quick regrowth.

6) Work on my half halt.  Practice centerlines.  Improve our up and down transitions.  Work on my half halt.  Improve our stretch down trot.  Learn half halt timing.  Perfect our circles.  Square halts.  More half halts.  Hmm, there seems to be a preponderance of work on my end in this entry.

7) Do something really nice for my husband.  Without his support, I would not be on this journey with Ike.  Without him, Ike and I would be hacking to shows.  Without him, shows would be lonely.  He is our greatest cheerleader.

8) Organize my paperwork.  All our necessary registration paperwork, rule books, vet certificates are shoved into a file box.  It is all in one place, but that place is my home office and that will not help me when I’m at a show scratching my head while trying to remember membership numbers or test patterns.  Guess I need to accomplish task #2 or fear losing this paperwork in the chaos.

9) Measure my whip.  How awful it would be to put in the ride of a lifetime to only have it negated by a whip that is 1 centimeter too long.

10) Take time to breathe and just spend time with Ike.  While time in the saddle is important to success, I believe the real partnership bond forms with time spent out of the saddle.  The new spring grass will be here soon enough.  I will steal some time to find a quiet spot at the barn and let Ike graze while I stroke his neck and back and remind him how lucky I am to have him in my life.

Back in the Saddle Again

023So when you hear the phrase, “Back in the Saddle Again,” what musical act pops into your head?  Is it Gene Autry or Aerosmith?  The right answer?  There really isn’t one.  What does matter is that no matter what keeps you out of the saddle, that you get yourself back into the saddle as soon as possible.  Your sanity is at stake and you don’t want to mess with that.

I attempted to ride on Saturday, but the footing was less than ideal since the moisture in the blue stone had frozen and there was absolutely no give to the footing.  After 20 minutes of mostly walk and some light trot work, I toss in the towel and called it a day.  Sunday was a sunless, cold day and I just wasn’t feeling inspired.  Monday I spent the day out-of-town with my newest puppy while he had Femoral Head Ostectomy on his right hip; basically the head of the femur is fractured by something or someone and needs to be removed.  [Here comes my soapbox speech.]  The poor boy was returned to the local SPCA with this injury and the former owners said nothing during the intake.  Seriously?  Some people should not be allowed to own animals.  I saw the x-ray – there was a lot of force behind whatever hurt him.  I hope I never meet the people who did this.  Luckily, the surgery went well, and he should have a full recovery with no lasting limp.

So after life’s diversions and my lack of motivation for riding in the cold, Ike and I got right back to it today with our weekly lesson.  Ms. C declared that it was Lateral Day.  Ugh – it is relatively new to Ike so mistakes are common.  He doesn’t hear the bump of my leg so the hind end trails…only to be exaggerated by the fact that I forgot to half halt that outside shoulder so it is steaming ahead without the rest of the body.  Then we switch directions only to find that we have the opposite issues tracking the other direction.  More information to process and store.  I also had a challenge today trying to establish a steady connection and throughness, so it made giving aids for the leg yield more challenging as I fought the giraffe neck and an unyielding back.  Why was it challenging?  Because a certain horse who I shall not call out needed to poop, but would not.

When we do manage to get all pieces and parts working together, Ike has a really nice reach to his lateral steps.  There is a flow to the movement and it feels effortless…ah, that is the feeling I strive for with every stride and every stride of every ride.  Guess I’ll just have to keep getting back in the saddle to see if we can find it again.

It’s a Game of Chutes and Ladders

003Today I finally had last week’s lesson, and for me, better late than never.  Ike and I require regular adult supervision to keep us on track and our reins at the correct length.  So glad that Ms. C does not migrate south for the winter – she might not be happy about it, but I know that I am so very thankful that Ike and I can keep up our lessons through the winter rather than scratching our heads wondering if we are making forward progress.  Our second show season kicks off in three months, so we really don’t have any time to waste.

After today’s lesson, I can assure you that our upward progress is stifled by my inadequacies as a rider – we have to claw our way up that ladder rung by rung.  Yes, it is true, poor Ike must tolerate my digressions in his quest for fame and fortune.  How will the boy ever make it to the Wellington Dressage Master’s competition when his owner is so easily distracted by a runny nose and cold fingers?  Ms. C and I discussed some of the rides while we did my lesson; she used them as a guide for my wayward skill set.  While they are a library of how to ride correctly, I could be the poor soul who they trot out to demonstrate what not to do.  One of these days I’m making it over that wall to the other side where the proficient riders live.

One of the discussions today was about rein length.  I marvel at riders who manage to keep a steady connection even while holding two sets of reins.  I feel like I am always adjusting the length and my contact is on again, off again.  My fear is that Ike will learn to tune out my fidgeting and we will be damned to Training Level purgatory.  Ms. C assures me that I am improving and that now that Ike is steadier and stronger, I won’t have to constantly grope for the right length which sends us down the chute and back to Intro Level.  Our sit trot work today proved that I can find the right length of rein when I set my mind to it.  Start on a trot circle to the left, establish the correct bend and flexion, and once things are stable, half halt, step to the right, and re-establish the new bend and flexion for a circle to the right.  Up the ladder we went…

We were half way up the ladder today when we took an unexpected detour down the Runaway Horse Chute.  Ms. C said she could almost see Ike planning to slide down that particular chute.  I bumped Ike with my legs to ask for just a bit more trot.  Ike took that opportunity to leap into the canter and before I could say “wh—-” we were off to the races.  Abandoning any finesse, I used the full body brace to gain control.  Phew!  That will get the blood flowing.  Of course we were at the bottom of the chute and back at Start.  Time to start over.

We abandoned all thoughts of canter and continued to work on our trot work as well as the suggestion of shoulder in.  Please Ike, could we just make it up one ladder successfully?  I will then take you back to the barn for the rest of your dinner.  That must have been good incentive because we ended our lesson on a positive note with the successful climb up the walk/trot ladder.  Ike’s walk was dynamite – the boy really should be able to pull at least an 8 on that walk.  Our transitions were peaceful in the up direction as well as in the down.  Ike even listened as we attempted shoulder in to the right and left.  His rider almost led them down the Overbending Chute, but Ms. C was there to save the day and prevent one final descent.

So many ladders to climb before show season kicks into high gear.  I am going to try my best to avoid any chutes that will send us back to Intro tests at schooling shows.  Ike says he is promising nothing.  He kind of liked that wild ride and isn’t certain why I don’t encourage more of that behavior.  I think he has been talking to his brother too much.

We head out this weekend for our first clinic of 2013!

Rider’s Block and Writer’s Block

003Well, well, well, there hasn’t been much to write about this week as far as barn activities.  After getting cocky and riding four, yes four, days in a row over the long holiday weekend, the weather has decided to take me down a notch and keep my feet on the frozen ground.

Temperatures have hovered in the 20s during the day since Tuesday, and we had our first snow of the season yesterday.  I know my friends to the north would scoff at the wimpy winter we have had in Virginia.  Yes, even the hint of winter weather has us rushing to the store for milk, bread and toilet paper.  I never did understand this trio…where are the hot chocolate and marshmallows?  Did you not have a spare roll or two of toilet paper on hand already?  It isn’t like we will be snowed in for weeks on end.  People also rush out and buy shovels when the weatherman mentions the “s-word.”  Umm, what did you do with the one that you bought two years ago?  It isn’t like they go bad.

The 2-3 inches of snow that came yesterday was Ike’s first “big snow storm.”  What a momentous occasion for the big man.  Would he try to hover above the ground like he did during the one snow event (<1 inch) we had last winter?  Ms. C ended up bringing the big weenie back to the barn until the snow melted later that day.  I should not have worried.  Ike marched out of the barn like a horse on a mission and never really gave the snow much thought.  Ms. C said at one point he had been pushing the snow around (most likely looking for buried hay) and his entire muzzle was covered in snow.  Ah, one of those Kodak moments that I wasn’t around to see.  Bummer.

So what does one do when barn time is stifled and it is just way too cold to even be outdoors for long periods?  I cleaned out my files and shredded a trash bag’s worth of paper.  I organized my USEF, USDF, and Ike’s paperwork…well, okay, I gathered it all together and put it in one box.  That counts right?  I shopped on the Smartpak website trying to decide what to do with my windfall from Horse Junkies United.  Seriously thinking about getting the Dublin Pinnacle boots (http://www.smartpakequine.com/dublin-pinnacle-boot-9029p.aspx) even though I know my husband will tell me I have lost my freaking mind.  I attended my local dressage chapter’s annual banquet and collected Ike’s end of year awards – Champion at Intro and Third at Training.  Not bad for a horse that could barely canter a circle last April.  And my husband and I adopted a cute little mutt named Brownie from our local SPCA.  Why not add some chaos to the house with a 13 month old young dog?

Brownie and Spencer Jan 24 2013                                                                               Brownie (in front) and his brother Spencer

We have one more day of cold temperatures and possible snow – I never believe it until I see the actual flakes – last week they said we were getting 6-8 inches and we ended up with just wet flakes with the cold rain.  A veritable heat wave will be here Saturday with a high temperature of 40 degrees.  That should be enough to melt the snow and thaw the arena for some walk/trot work.  Having withdrawal symptoms from lack of time in the saddle – I need my riding fix!  Those centerlines aren’t going to straighten themselves…

Thinking about the Half Halt

005You can’t get away from them – they are ubiquitous.  They are important for every gait, for every movement in a dressage test, and seem to take up a lot of space in my posts.  Ms. C spends hours patiently trying to ingrain the correct technique into my cranium.  They are my nemesis and a literally a pain in my shoulders on some days.  Master the technique, and you will find success and move up the levels.  Those who aren’t coordinated enough to perform them effectively are doomed to muddle around the lower levels for eternity.  I fear that I am the latter and poor Ike is doomed by his mother’s lack of coordination to perform a correct half halt.

To complicate things, I opted to purchase a young, green horse, so I am wholly responsible for Ike’s education.  He’d only been under saddle for 30 days when he arrived in Virginia, so I don’t think he knew a half halt from a flying change when he arrived.  The responsibility is mine for teaching Ike what a half halt is.  I do know that I don’t half halt often enough.  Sometimes when I do, Ike “overhears” the request and we go from trot to walk or canter to unbalanced trot…or maybe I overdo the request.  Perhaps it is a little of both?  In any case, half halts can stymie me like no other concept.  Did I squeeze too much with my fingers and not enough with my legs?  When I engaged my core, did I accidentally tip forward and confuse Ike as to what I want?  The madness of it all!!  And don’t get me started on timing my half halts!  Half a stride too late is oh too common.

Now I must say that Sir Ike must bear some of the burden on his shoulders.  Some days he softens nicely when I close my fingers for a half halt.  Other days the request is met with 50 pounds of resistance to the request, “no, I do not wish to do that today.”  Arrghhh!  Just do it Ike and let’s get on with the program. “No, I wish to be argumentative today and even get pissy to your leg as well.”  Thus is how our ride went today.  I would ask Ike to soften, he would resist.  I would repeat the request, he would resist.  I would then demand compliance with a very loud half halt, he would soften for a millisecond and then brace.  Ah the joys of working with a young, smart horse.  He obviously know what I want, but is just electing to not participate.  Out of a 40 minute ride, I had a relaxed and connected horse for maybe 15 total minutes.

Ike’s current mental state of “not today Mom, I’m too busy ignoring you” reminds me of my brother in his younger days.  He was tested for four years straight in elementary school for participation in the gifted program.  The teachers were stymied.  How is it possible that a smart boy continues to not do well on this test when he obviously has the intelligence?  My mother finally dragged the truth out of him….”I don’t answer all the questions on the test.  If I have to go to gifted class, I still have to make up the work I missed in the other class.  I don’t want to do the extra work.”  Oh.  Is Ike the equine version of my brother?  The smart kid who resists to avoid having to do extra work?

I certainly hope Mr. Smarty Pants gets over himself soon, my body needs a week of easy rides to recover.

Lesson of the Week – Patience


Two more rides behind me this week.  We’ve already topped the ride count for the past two weeks combined and we still have the weekend to go.  It is nice to have the normal routine re-established and have the weather cooperate.  The cold hasn’t been too dreadful.  I was able to ride without having to resort to looking like Ralphie’s brother from A Christmas Story in order to stay warm. [Cue the small child in the snowsuit who can’t put his arms down…”You can put your arms down when you get to school.”]  Can I just say how hard it is to effectively half halt when you have warm puffy gloves encasing your fingers making them look like Italian sausages?

Yesterday I rode while Ms. C gave a lesson to another friend.  I focused on my work and tried to stay out of their way.  Ike wasn’t too squirrely, and we worked our way through the repertoire of walk, trot, canter, circles, leg yield, transitions, halts, shoulder in (attempts), and free walk.  I thought we had decent rhythm and tempo…and that is where I was wrong…

Today was our lesson.  Little did I realize that Ms. C’s laser sharp eyes did see some of our work yesterday.  She asked me how I thought my ride yesterday went.  Ooh.  “Well, it was not as challenging as some days, but I was happy with what we accomplished.”  Well, I learned that we were too quick in our trot work with too few half halts, not as through as we should be at the canter, i.e., more half halts, and our angles were off with our lateral work (read: half halt that outside rein to slow down that outside shoulder).  Darn those pesky things.  I think I’m doing things correctly only to find out that I’m not quite as effective as I think I am.  Crap.  Sigh.  Bummer.  Why don’t horses come with owner’s manuals so you know exactly how much to squeeze your fingers and legs to get the correct result?

Ms. C said that I am letting Ike choose the rhythm he wants to go – he needs to learn patience, wait for me, and I need to establish what I want.  If I keep letting him make the decisions on how to travel, then the choppy quick trot is what I’m teaching him is okay.  Ahh, light bulb moment.  It is a very good thing that I take weekly lessons to keep me on track.  Ike and I would still be careening around the arena without Ms. C’s close and very patient guidance to keep us moving in the right direction.  We spent most of the lesson working on my ability to half halt correctly no matter what gait we were in and thereby teaching Ike to be patient and wait for me to ask for more or less.  My homework for the weekend is clear…no puffy gloves, lots of half halts, and then some more half halts.  Ike’s homework is working on waiting for Mom’s aids…patience big boy, patience.

The Jolly Green Giant

Dec 31 Jolly Green Giant

It looks like the colder temperatures are finally here to stay in the mid-Atlantic region.  While Ike has gained some weight and grown a respectable winter coat, I decided to offer him an added layer of protection from the elements.  I pulled out his emerald green, waterproof sheet from last year; it has no fill, but it isn’t quite cold enough for his medium weight blanket.  As a three-year old, he wore an 84 inch blanket.  Yes, that is right, a size 84…kept all fingers and toes crossed that it would fit and I would not have to scramble to find a new one.  As soon as I pulled it around his shoulders, you could see the material straining to fit around Ike’s the hulking deltoids.  Sigh.  Baby Huey continues to get pumped up or plumped up as the case may be.  Time to start shopping for a replacement.

My internet search for larger sized horse blankets found some interesting details: there are fewer choices once you move beyond 84 inch blankets.  Some websites have nothing sized above 84 inches.  There are a fair number of 86 inch style choices, but color selection is more limited – usually one choice.  Once you go above 86 inches, there are only a few companies that carry the circus-tent sizes.  Found one style called the Big Fella at Schneider’s (www.sstack.com).  Leave it to me to own a horse that needs special sizing.

Ike and I did manage to get in two rides over the New Year’s holiday weekend.  Two rides are better than no rides.  Ike continues to be grumpy during our warmup.  I try more walking, hovering in two-point at the trot, lots of walk/trot transitions with half halts that make my arms ache from the effort, and the only thing that consistently works is letting him canter.  Fine, Ike, if that will get you over your mood and make you more cooperative, so be it.  Canter politely for as long as you need.  All this winter time cantering is paying off – we are no longer freight training around the arena like a Great Dane puppy.  My knees are grateful that the fence is now keeping its distance.   We are also continuing to work on canter transitions using my seat rather than my leg backed up with the whip.  The whip has been a necessary tool this past year.  It continues to be useful for our lateral work, but it sure is nice to wean myself from needing it for canter transitions.  Forward progress…baby steps…except my baby needs a 86 inch blanket.