Thursday, July 31, 2014


For Wednesday's lesson, I rode Chester with a new pad I got him, a black Roma sheepskin pad. It worked well; the saddle didn't slip at all and it looks nice with his brown saddle. Meghan lunged him before I got on because he hadn't been ridden since Friday(I rode Ronnie Monday). When he was done bucking and cantering to burn off some of his extra energy, I mounted and began riding him around in the dressage arena, trotting in a figure eight pattern.

Figure eight
  I had to work a lot on keeping Chester on the circle and going all the way to the points, while at the same time turning his head slightly to the inside. It is hard work to use your leg to keep him on the circle and takes a lot of coordination. There were times when I didn't make it all the way to the points, or found myself using a little outside rein to keep Chester on the circle, which in turn brought his head to the outside. I got a little better at it as I continued but it is still something I need to practice.

Cantering. I'm coming out of the saddle a bit.
 On one part of the figure, about midway through the lesson, Chester spooked at something, and Meghan quickly told me to turn him in a tight circle, which I did. I managed to stay on, but I need to work on taking control when I horse I'm riding spooks rather than holding on.

 I continued on the figure eight, continuing to work on turning Chester's head to the inside while using my leg to push him to the points. Next, I trotted around the dressage arena, rode across several diagonals, then made a circle left at C. I pushed Chester into a big trot as I started the circle, then asked for the canter when I reached C. It was great! I'm getting more comfortable cantering and better at sitting deep in the saddle.

This looks much better. I love this picture.

Walking at the end
 After that, I made a fast circle at A, heading right, and cantered the whole circle. I ended the lesson with the dressage test as it is written, with cantering. I had to redo the circle right at A a couple times, because I cantered in a too small circle at first. The next two times he only trotted quickly. When I gave Chester more of a squeeze and loosened the reins more, he cantered nicely. The canter for the left circle at A, however, was good and immediate. Even the downward transition was smooth! I'm getting much better at cantering now.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Riding Ronnie and Getting on the Bit for the First Time

 For today's lesson I tried riding Ronnie, a bay mare at the barn that may soon be for sale, rather than Chester. Meghan wanted me to try Ronnie out because she thinks the mare would be a great first horse for me. The horse has been ridden in tests up to 2nd level(not at shows so far) and is being trained in some third level things. She has already been to shows with her owner and is boarded at the barn where I ride.

 I enjoyed riding her! She has smooth gaits and her canter is a lot easier to sit than Chester's. She also seems to have a sweet temperament is not at all mare-ish and cranky. It took me a few minutes to get used to her, but once I did it was nice riding her. After I was used to her walk and used to turning her well at the gait, I started trotting her on the circle. She has a nice, smooth trot.

Look how cute she is!
 Next, I was put on the lungeline and made a small circle to the left. I trotted Ronnie for a couple circles, then  cantered her. Wow, her canter is nice. It may be partly due to riding in a dressage saddle rather than a jumping saddle, but her canter is easier to sit and I wasn't bounced around as much as cantering on Chester. I was even able to several circles right away.

 I soon changed directions and began cantering right. There was an incident when she didn't canter right away, so I gave a light kick, which startled her and she swerved to the side. I stayed on, luckily, and continued riding without being very nervous. I cantered again. She swayed a step to the left a bit after a couple strides, mostly because she was afraid she had done something wrong, but after that she was just fine.

 I returned to trot and began working on a new skill: putting a horse on the bit. I kept the outside rein firm and squeezed with the inside rein to get Ronnie to lower her head and become connected. Putting her on the bit also took using some leg to push her forward. It took a while; learning to put a horse on the bit takes practice, but I managed to to get her to do it for a little bit at a time, rounding her neck and connecting. I cantered a little bit like that, then went off the lungeline and began trying the new skill off the lungeline, after walking Ronnie.
I think I'm trying to put Ronnie on the bit here.

I had some trouble using my leg to keep her on the rail, so I made a circle and continued to ask. I eventually got her on the bit. It's so nice to get her on the bit after a lot of trying. After that I ended the lesson and walked her around the property, then put her away. I of course had to say hi to Chester and give him a couple cookies because he was jealous that his rider was riding someone else. He enjoyed the cookies but I still think he's disappointed I didn't ride him.

 Wednesday I may try Ronnie again. I'm still not certain if I will get her but we want to try her out some more. She seems like an ideal horse and I really like her. With her training, she's the type of horse that would go quickly. She hasn't been put up on the market yet though so I still have time to get to know her and make a decision. If I do get her I can likely take her to shows next season. I hope this works out but nothing is final yet. Hopefully!

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Wednesday's Lesson and Riding Without Trainer

Wednesday's lesson started with working with poles, first walking over some several times, then riding over another set at the trot. It went well but I was bounced around a bit. After working in both directions I made trotted around the arena a bit. There was one point went he freaked out passing the walk poles and went to the side, so I turned him back and passed then again, no problem. Then I made a circle at A heading to the right. As I usually do, I worked up to cantering by riding bigger trot on the outside of the circle and a slow trot on the inside. Finally, I did a few canter strides, even doing the entire outside half.

 Next, I tried to get a full circle. It went well! I still need to work on the downward transition from canter to trot, which is exactly why I can't canter straight yet. Another reason is that going straight may make Chester go faster because he isn't slowed down by turning and I may loose my balance.

 Anyways, I changed direction and began cantering left, doing the same thing and working up to cantering a full circle. Again, it went well, but the next time I cantered that way a disaster happened. Chester picked up the wrong, I lost my balance,  and he swerved to the right. Fortunately, I stayed on but I was a bit shaken, and Chester was nervous because he thought he had done something wrong. I circled to the right and he began walking off the circle to evade cantering. I decided to wait until later to canter when I was calmed down by doing something I am comfortable doing: trotting.

This picture is nice.
I rode several serpentines, heading right first, then left for the middle circle. Chester was still shifting off to the left for the circle at A, so I focused on keeping him on the circle. After riding several serpentines, I made a circle at C to the right then cantered several strides. I changed directions and cantered left as well. It went much better than earlier, when he accidently piked up the wrong lead.
From Friday. 

 Thursday, after helping out with the therapeutic riding, I rode for a little bit on my own, trotting around the arena, riding a couple circles, then doing my dressage test. The cones toward the inside of the arena had been moved so I had to estimate where they were.

He wouldn't look at the camera
 Friday, I also rode without my trainer because she was at a show with some of the other girls. I tried to do what I would in a normal lesson, trotting around the arena after warming up, then riding serpentines several times before entering beginning my dressage test.(without cantering). For one circle at B Chester began drifting to the outside, so I started over. The second time went much more smoothly.  Chester seemed relaxed, though I still needed to use my leg to keep him straight. Oh, and we were both wearing new boots for that ride.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Improving a Lot

 I wore my tall boots for Monday's lesson to break them in and because my paddock boots are wearing out. It was more slippery than using my half chaps, but it got better as I got used to it. To start my lesson, I went over a few poles. Chester seemed hesitant to go over at first so a theme for my lesson began telling Chester to do things if he refused rather than continuing to ask. That way I become a more assertive rider.

 Once I started to actually tell him to go over the poles he was better. I tightly turning him around to cross over the poles again, riding over several times before entering the dressage arena and starting to trot. When I began trotting around the dressage arena, I focused on getting better walk-trot transitions by first asking Chester to trot with a light squeeze, and if he didn't respond right away I would squeeze harder. This way, he learned to respond more quickly to my cues.

 I worked on this several times, doing walk-trot transitions until Chester began to respond right away to a soft squeeze. I rode several diagonals and went around the arena a couple times, then made a circle left at A, riding the big trot-slow trot transition, then riding several canter strides. I did this to the left, then right, then left again before starting my dressage test.

 This time, I added in the canter parts right away. It went really well; I'm getting a lot better at riding the canter. Before long I might be cantering straight. After putting hosing Chester off and putting him away, I gave him a horse cookie. Meghan said I have improved since the last lesson. Maybe the games helped me be more confident and better at controlling Chester, which is important, especially in a crowded arena.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Pony Club Game Night and Bareback Ride

 Yesterday evening I went to my first Pony Club activity, a game night, which was really fun. I met some nice girls and enjoyed having a fun, relaxing ride. Chester also seemed to enjoy himself. After tacking Chester I had a safety check from Meghan(Pony Club girls need one before mounting) then warmed up with the other girls, riding walk and trot. The girls that could confidently canter and control their cantering horse in a group took turns cantering, then the games began.

 The first game was an egg on a spoon race. Everyone was given an egg and a spoon and had to ride from end of the arena to the other at the walk. Most people made it to the other side, including myself, so we tried it at the trot. I ended up losing my egg as soon as I asked for the trot transition. One girl, Maddie managed to do it cantering.

Long reach!
Pole bending
 Next, we played a pole bending relay game in which we had to pole bend to the end of the arena, circle around a cone and grab the apple on it, bend back, drop it in a bucket, then tag our next teammate. When grabbing the apple we can't halt and have to continue moving. I was the second to go on my team, trotting Chester in between the poles. I slowed down as I neared the cone but had to circle it twice to reach the apple; Chester is tall. I trotted back, dropped the apple in the bucket, and tagged my next teammate.
Dropping apple in bucket
 The next game was similar, except we had hold two apples, one in each hand, and steer the horse using only our legs. Clearly more than one of us, including me, have to work on guiding the horse with our seat and legs. I only weaved him around the first pole before Chester decided he was too smart for the game and walked straight to the bucket full of apples.
I think this is when I'm trying with two apples, though
you can't see the other.
 After that, we played another pole bending game where you have to get a partner and each hold the end of a rope, weaving through the poles together. I was going to try that game, but standing beside my partner waiting to go, I noticed Chester seemed nervous about it so I decided to sit that game out.

 The next game was really fun. It was called Musical Dressage Cones and was played just like musical chairs, except on horseback! I was lucky enough to near cones when the music stopped the first two times, but the third time I had to race another girl across the arena to grab C. I was in the lead a couple strides from the cone until the other girl cantered, but I ended up getting it because only the last two people can canter. the next time I had to race another girl but ended up being knocked out. I really loved this game, and so did Chester, except for being a little nervous when I rode past the loud stereo.
Musical dressage cones

 Finally, we played a bareback dollar game: everyone has to ride bareback and sit on a dollar bill. Whoever keeps it the longest wins. I was a little bit nervous about it at first but Meghan convinced to me to try it. It was fun, though Chester's back is bony. I only rode at the walk because it was my first time and lost my bill somewhere in the arena. One girl, who rides bareback often, kept hers through the canter, winning the game.
Holding the dollar for the game. My leg was better when I started waling.

 I had an awesome time at the Pony Club event and can't wait until the next activity.
Group picture.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Falling Off Week

 The reins to my new bridle were a bit stiff Wednesday, so Thursday I soaked it in neatsfoot oil so they soft and flexible for yesterday's lesson. I started the lesson by riding several trot circles at A. I still need to work on turning Chester's head to the inside, but I'm getting better.
Trotting down the long side.  I seem to have trouble putting my right heel
down sometimes but my left heel his usually fine.

 After ridings several circles to the left, I rode down the long side and trotted around the dressage arena several times, the changed directions and started heading right. Chester seemed relaxed and like he didn't want to go too fast today.
 Before I practiced my test, I turned up centerline and practiced my halt salute, stopping two times along centerline, once at X and another time at G. The one at X was straighter than the second one. Next, I rode through the Intro Test C, halting at X straight halt and riding a big trot for the canter parts the first time I went through. The object of doing the bigger trot is that Chester might go so fast that he throws in a canter stride, rather than suddenly bounding into canter.
That moment before the fall.

 The second time riding through the test, when Chester quickly sprung into canter, he did a little bound, causing me to lose my balance. When he suddenly slowed down I fell into the muddy part of the arena. Another in one week? This must be my falling week.
Better canter!

  I wasn't hurt(although my breeches and gloves were muddy) so I remounted and continued riding, starting with circle A to the right. I rode several times with the bigger trot, then got a couple canter strides an continued riding the test as if nothing happened. For the left circle at A, I did the same exercise, working up to riding several circles with the canter parts.


 I ended the the test and walked Chester around the arena to cool him down. After hosing him off I gave him the apple and horse cookie I brought because he was a good boy cantering and it wasn't his fault I had fallen off.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Cantering and a Spook

 For my lesson today I got to use my new bridle, a dark hunter bridle with laced reins, which just arrived Tuesday. I was able  to assemble it myself with instructions found online and adjusted it to fit Chester. He looks cute in it! I was also able to use a jumping pad today, which worked wonders for keeping the fitted pad in place. Chester was in a much better mood today.

Look how cute he is in his new bridle!

 Throughout my lesson I worked a lot on keeping Chester's heading facing to the inside of turn, which I can focus more on now that I'm getting better with my position and posting. I rode a lot of trot circles and some serpentines at the beginning part of the lesson. Sometimes when I would turn his head to the inside his whole body followed because I wasn't using enough leg to keep him on the outside. I need to work on guiding more with my legs and seat as well as my hands.

 After doing several serpentines I began my dressage test. I didn't always keep his head facing slightly to the inside(Meghan says to do it enough that I can just barely see Chester's inside eye) and he sometimes trailed off from the rail because I wasn't using enough leg, but it otherwise went well. The canter parts were replaced with a really big, fast trot as I usually do the first time going through the test that day.

 The second time I went through the test, when I was beginning my 20 meter circle at B, there was a sudden loud boom caused by nearby workers dynamiting granite. Scared by the sudden loud noise, Chester spooked. I quickly grabbed mane and fortunately managed to stay on. However both Chester and I were I little on edge for a few minutes afterward, so Meghan explained the importance of being able to continue riding after an event like that, especially at a show.

 When I reached the circle at A we circled quite a few times rather than moving on, working up to cantering by riding a big trot for the canter half of the circle and a noticeably smaller trot for the trot part. I eventually cantered several strides. I went around a few times with the canter parts before changing directions.

 I did the same thing to the left. Chester's left lead canter is a lot faster, but I did fine other than grabbing a bit of mane until the last time. I'm didn't do so good at having a smooth canter-trot transition, and once  even cantered an entire circle to the left when I didn't efficiently ask for a downward transition. Meghan says to use verbal cues and my body to slow him if he is going to fast, using the reins only as everything else doesn't work.

 It was a great lesson. There are a few things I need to work on, especially now that I'm getting better with position and posting so I don't have to think about that as much.
Things to Work on
-Turn Chester's head to the inside
-Use my leg to keep him on the rail or outside of circle
-Use my whole body to guide the horse and use reins less

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Book Review: A Horse to Treasure

 I recently read A Horse to Treasure, the sequel to Juliana Hutchings' A Horse to Remember. It continues with the same characters, following the teenaged Hilary and her struggles that come after loosing her heart horse, a black mustang named Satan because he was once too aggressive for others to handle. She now has another horse, the son of her heart horse. Throughout the book she struggles with being afraid to show again since she had lost her first after a show. Yet many people try to pressure her into showing because her new horse, who she had trained herself, shows promise and talent. She faced with the tough decision of keeping her horse and not showing, despite what everyone else thinks, or handing the reins over to someone else. There are also many other events involved, including the mysterious showing past of Hilary's best friend, Amanda.

 This book is written for people about my age. I love the story and think it is even better than the first one. It is realistic story about the struggles of the character after losing her horse, something many horse people have likely gone through before. I would recommend it to others about my age.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Practicing Jump Position, Irritated Horse, and Two Falls

 Yes, two. I started the lesson by working on my two point while on a circle at the walk. Then I tried it at the trot, staying up for half of a 20 meter circle instead of posting. I was working on my jumping position even though I'm not jumping yet so I know how to do it.
Holding two-point
 After working on the circle both ways, I exited the dressage portion of the arena, heading left toward two sets of jump standards(without poles) set a stride apart from each other. I worked on holding my two point while I rode through the standards, headed back into the dressage arena, then did it again in the same direction. As I continued to do it I got better and better at hold my position. I rode from the patter several times, then changed directions and did it the other way.
Two point over pole.

Next, Meghan added ground poles in between each set of standards to imitate the poles in jumps. Like the time before, I held my two-point in between. The first time I rode it this way, Chester was coming towards them a little fast, and when I didn't adjust his speed cantered over them. He was excited to be doing fun stuff. Thankfully, I managed to maintained my seat.

 I made him slow down and stay in the trot for the next times. Later on however, he became excited about something a few strides after the set of poles. It ended with the two of us parting ways for the first time. I wasn't hurt, so I led him back to the step. Before I got on, Meghan adjusted his fitted black half pad, which had slipped back and likely caused the fall. I got back on and continued riding.

 A few minutes later Chester spooked a second time when he saw a bee, but I stayed on an continued riding.

 The next element of the course was for me to sit and post in between each set of standards and two point over them, as you would do when riding a jump course, except at the trot. Finally, I rose out the saddle, leaning over Chester's neck as he crossed the poles, then sat and posted in between. I did this a few times each direction. Now that I now the basic position, I can later on add the cantering and the jumps, though will be for another time.

 I was going to end the lesson with a few steps of cantering, but Chester was acting more and more on edge. His pad that helps fit the saddle to him was slipping which may be the cause. Just before the canter depart to the left, he acted up again, leaning forward and unseating me. I managed to hold on to his neck for a few moments but ended up eating dirt...again! Must be a record ha ha.

 I once more remounted but Meghan decided it was best not to canter with how irritated Chester, so I just circled in the walk and trot and dismounted. Meghan got on after to see if maybe she could figure what was wrong, riding him in the walk and trot for a few moments. His slipping pad could be the problem. I'm going to start using a jumping pad on him to see if that helps. As you might noticed from the pictures I use a dressage pad, the only he has. Hopefully it helps with his slipping fitted pad!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Improving at Riding the Canter

 After returning from summer camp earlier today, I went to the barn for a riding lesson. Chester looked happy to see me and was calm and relaxed. I tacked him and began riding around the arena to warm up. Then, I began the lesson by trotting around the perimeter of the dressage arena. I've riding been working a lot lately on posting on the correct diagonal and have been getting better at doing so and recognizing when I am on the wrong diagonal. I am also getting better at sitting to correct or change my diagonal without being bumped around.
 I wasn't on the correct posting diagonal all the time this lesson, though, but I still rode well. I trotted across the long diagonal of the arena several times and changed my posting in the middle, at X. I also tried to make Chester straight so wasn't looking to the outside of where I am going.

 After doing several laps at the trot I took a walk break, then began a trot serpentine when I reached C. I rode several of them before beginning the dressage test I am working on, Intro Test C, riding Chester at the canter for the canter parts. The canter to the left was a little sloppy, so I had to redo it a couple times, but the canter right was much better. There was one time when I was sitting deep in the saddle rather than being bounced up.

 I ran through the test twice. The second time was much better: the shapes were more precise and the halting and saluting went much better.

 Before putting Chester away I watched another girl, Maddie, ride her gelding Bentley so I could learn something from observing her. She rode some leg yields, shoulder fores, and canter serpentines, with a couple simple changes in between each circle. It's nice to watch someone else ride so you can better visualize what you are supposed to be doing.