February 21, 2011


A while back my work had a little workshop on how to influence others.  How to get people to do what you want them to, or more importantly how to get people to want to do what you want them to do.  And I couldn't help but draw parrallels between how I influence my employees to how I train my horses.

During our workshop I heard a lot of people decribe influence as "making" poeple do something or using the "becasue I'm the boss" reasoning.  (This is why we had the workshop, we needed some help in this area).  And I kept thinking, you cant "make" anyone do anything.  And "because I'm the boss" only gets results in the short term.

Same thing with horses, I know the only reason I get my horse to do anything is becasue I have somehow convinced him its a good idea., he doesnt' know I'm the boss, or maybe he knows I'm not, iether way, he doesn't care.  And as far as making a horse do anything, anyone who has tried to load a clostrophobic horse into a trailer knows there's no "make" about it. 

And listeneng to everyones pholosophies about influence ane compairing them to my own made me wonder if I felt differently because I work with horses, or if my thoughts on influence is what made enjoy training horses.  Either way I think most people could learn a lot about human nature jsut by working with a horse, or any animal for that matter.  Becasue whether we realize it or not, our motivations are very similar.  What gets you more motivated, doing something becasue someone told you to or doing it because there is some kind of benefit in it for you? That's all it really is about... the what is in it for me factor.  And if you can figure out how to communicate that to an animal, who doesnt' speak your language, its a piece of cake with a person who does.

February 17, 2011

Show Video

As promised:

Dexter's First Show - Training Level Test 2

Since YouTube and Blogger aren't coordinating today, a link will have to do.  Remember, I fully admit this is not a good test.  I'm all over the place, and Dexter is all over the place.  But we are here to share our journey and the journey has to start somewhere.

February 16, 2011

AQHA Gets with the Program

I have been meaning to post about this for a while and just haven't gotten around to it.  In my latest Dressage Today magazine there was an article about Quarter Horses in Dressage. 

I am a huge quarter horse fan.  My first to horses were quarter horses and as I've now dabbled outside the breed, I've come to appreciate their attitude and work ethic even more.  Never did I have to worry about them spooking or getting tense.  They are the perfect horse for any kid starting out (this is a generalization, all breeds have their outliers), they are usually calm, willing to work and smart enough to figure out what you want.  I think if I had started out with a hotter, more "dressagey" horse, I would be a much more timid rider now.  Having a quarter horse helped me build my confidence a rider. 

The one compromise for the quarter horses I owned what that I basically took them out of any AQHA awards and any ability to move up in the AQHA world.  We were riding dressage and a the time dressage was one of the few disciplines AQHA didn't recognize.  So while L.E. was the 2nd highest scoring QH in First Level in the entire country, it didn't mean diddly in the AQHA world or anyone looking to buy an AQHA horse to show at recognized shows.  She didn't get any AQHA points, and with the AQHA you have to keep up with points to stay competitive.  This was 13 years ago.

This article in Dressage Today was about the fact that AQHA has begun to recognize dressage and is allowing results from approved competitions to count towards their AQHA points.  I say yeah AQHA!  I think dressage is a good fundamental skill for all horses to have.  And because if their personality and obedience, quarter horses can excel at the lower levels of dressage, where most of us ride anyways.  L.E. was schooling 2nd level when I had to sell her.  And she snapped her knees at the extended trot with the best of them.

My only concern is the AQHA Appendix program.  Don't get me wrong, I am a huge fan of the cross, QH/Thoroughbred makes an awesome sport horse.  But with the AQHA Appendix program you can breed a QH with a Thoroughbred and they get an "Appendix" added to their breed papers.  They can be registered under AQHA but don't become fully registered until they get so many points at recognized shows.  At that point the appendix gets dropped and they are considered straight up Quarter Horses.  I worry over time this may dilute the breed, and opening the field up to dressage may quicken that dilution since the cross is usually quite good at it.   I've noticed over the years already that "Quarter Horses" for sale are looking more and more like their taller slender buddies, the Thoroughbred. 

But all in all I'm in huge favor of AQHA recognizing dressage.  I think its a big step and may change how people view quarter horses in the future.  They will no longer be seen as just pleasure and cow horses, but the real well-rounded sport horses they are. 

Rugged Lark - The first "Spokes-Horse" for AQHA Dressage

February 15, 2011

Dexter's First Show

So I've been talking about it (kinda wish I hadn't made such a big deal about it now), and this weekend we did it.  We went out to our first show, it was just a little schooling show, but still a good learning experience.  It was my first show in 13 years and Dexter and Husband's first show ever, so I wasn't exactly sure of what to expect.

Husband did great.  He helped out where he could and was super supportive despite not knowing a thing about dressage.  I even caught him reading the test I gave him as I rode, trying to follow along.

THE GOOD - Relativly Speaking
Dexter and I didn't do quite as well.  The arena was an indoor with a short wall on one side of the ring where everyone sat.  Dexter wasn't sure about having an audience, especially one that moved. On top of that, due to the snow we have been having, the outdoor wasn't open for warm up so we only had about 15 minutes before our first class to warm up in a small dressage arena with 9 other people also trying to fit everything in in the short time.  Needless to say there was a lot going on and Dexter's last concern was what I was asking him to do.

We cantered about 1/2 a circle in each direction before we had to leave the ring.  He bucked on each depart and felt super rushed when ever I tried to go straight.  I seriously considered just schooling the test and taking the canter work out all together.  But I reminded myself my one goal was to complete the test, so I decided to suck it up and do the whole test as written.  We started with Training Level Test 1.

THE BAD - At least what was caught on camera
He wiggled down the center line, counter bent whenever we went to the right, over bent whenever we went to the left.  He couldn't keep a steady rhythm to save his life and our stretch circle was totally behind the bit.  Its always so disappointing when you know you've practiced the test well (at least better than that) several times at home and in lessons and can't get it together at the show. 

Luckily we were ahead of schedule so instead of another 15 minute warm-up before test 2 we had closer to 30 minutes.  And due to some scratches we only had 4 people in the ring.  Dexter was still full of energy so we decided to push him the whole 30 minutes, I certainly wasn't worried about tiring him out at this point.  And we started to get some good work in.  He was steady, when I remembered to relax he fell into my contact.  And we even got some nice canter circles in.  The one awesome thing was that because he was so full of it he was getting some nice elevation in his trot and canter (in the warm up anyways).  At the end of the warm up he was still bucking at a certain spot on our canter circle and didn't particularly want to canter down the long side... but we were getting there.

THE UGLY - Me not Dexter - Can't you tell I'm having fun.
As we were warming up the judge was watching and she commented as we finished up that he was looking much better and she was looking forward to a better test.  We were the first after the warm up so all the horses left and Dexter wasn't sure about that.  All alone in the scary indoor with just the judges and the husband (even most of the spectators had left).  So we started, wiggling down the center line, backing up during our halt..... at this point I looked at the judge and laughed.  What else can you do?  I knew this test would be just as bad as the first despite our warm-up.  Dexter just wasn't interested in what I had to say.  We did our best and got a slightly better score.  His canter was a wee bit more in control and he didn't buck at the spot he didn't like in warm up.  We still didn't get the best bend and we still couldn't stretch (stretching is for relaxed horses).  But we finished both tests, I didn't fall off, and he didn't take off (although I know he was thinking about it).

The nice thing about this show was you were able to talk to the judge after each test.  She commented on the difference between the warm-up and the last test.  She suggested that I may be getting tense causing him to resist.  I agreed with her, but I think it's him that gets tense first and I follow, either way its something to work on.

The positives:  We started early so hopefully when the real shows come around Dexter will be a pro.  Despite his acting up we got a lot of complements on his movement and how I handled him... maybe they were just being nice.  We did it, we jumped in and got our fist show out of the way.  I now know it's at least possible and am ready for the next.

Overall, because I'm a perfectionist and while we did meet our goals of not dieing, I wouldn't  call this show a success, but I would file it under an excellent learning experience.

Although its a bit embarrassing I promise to post the video of my second test at a later date, once I've come to terms with it.

February 9, 2011

Show Practice?

I had a lesson on Sunday and due to the chilly windy conditions outside we found ourselves with quite a few visitors in the indoor.  It was just after our lesson so we were done, but he was a little sweaty so I planned on cooling him off inside before taking him out into the wind and cold.  As I watched him perk up and eye every horse that came in, I thought this is perfect we will see how he behaves around new horses. 

All in all 4 other horses joined us inside.  One he had seen before, a pretty chestnut, with a nervous rider.  We had made her nervous a few weeks back while we practiced a test.  Dexter's animated canter was making a little too much noise for her horse to handle.  Needless to say she was more nervous with all the horses coming into the arena. 

We sat and talked with Trainer for a while and Dexter politely watched the other horses as they walked by.  Every now and then he would try to drift away to get a closer look but he wasn't over zealous about it.  Everyone just walked around, I had hoped someone would get the courage to trot or canter so I could gauge how Dex would do with someone coming up on him, but no such luck.

We just walked lazily around, then it happened.  OH MY GOD!!!  There is a jacket on the bench!!  There wasn't a jacket there before, it must be an evil predatory jacket that can appear out of thin air!  Must spin and try to run away!!  Wait! Now I can't see the jacket, it could be trying to attack me right now!  Must spin around keep an eye on it!  Oh no, too scary to look at, now I can't see it ... OH WHAT  TO DO!?!

That was obviously Dexter's internal monologue.  Mine was more like "What the hell!  Where are you going?  What are you looking at?  The jacket?!?  Seriously?!"

So he settled on standing, well jigging, perpendicular to the jacket so he could make a snap decision as to whether or not he needed to run at any point.  I found it amusing and tried to get him to calmly walk towards the coat but couldn't get him to budge.  We were about 20 feet from it at this point.  I think I could have gotten him closer but could see the nervous rider watching me, her horse could care less at this point. I thought about all the possibilities and with all the people in the arena decided it would be best to introduce Dexter to the jacket by getting off and leading him over.

If it had just been us,  I would have pushed my luck a little more, but I didn't want my idiot horse spooking another horse and getting someone else hurt.  And I could tell the nervous rider was seriously doubting my ability to control my horse, and to be fair, I wouldn't disagree with her.  So I got off, walked him over.  He made a big deal out of it until we got about 5 feet away, then he was over it.  Ohhhh... its just a regular, non-moving, non-horse eating jacket.  I even flapped the sleeves around a bit.... nothing.

I got back on (because Dexter is too smart and has already learned that he can scare me out of making him work) and walked around some more.  The jacket was no longer a threat. 

So I think this was a good test for this weekend.  I now know he should be relatively ok in the warm-up ring with other horses.  But I will however have to be on the look out for rouge jackets.  I wonder if the judge would mind if I asked her not to change clothes, move anything or move at all for that matter.  :)

February 8, 2011

Dexter's New Dressage Arena

Ok, its not new, and its not even really an arena.  Its the same crappy painted cinder blocks placed out in a field.  But we moved it and used my new extra long metric tape measure I got for Christmas, so it is much more accurate.

Originally we used the long side of the pasture as the long sided of the arena.  This positioned the arena so that we would be going towards or away from the barn on the long side.  At the time I was not aware of how super scary that fence was to Dexter and how much he enjoyed trying to take off when pointed towards the barn.  So we used the arena for a while then realized he does much better in a different part of the pasture and it has been left un-used for the last several months.

So about 2 weeks ago my husband agreed to come out and help me re-measure and re-locate the "arena".  He mostly agreed because he's a dork and loves to put math and geometry to practical use, regardless of the reason, I was happy for the help.

We basically turned the whole arena 90 degrees so the short side was on the fence line and the long side was parallel to the barn.  No more barreling down the long side praying for a downward transition.  I didn't realize it at the time but the pasture is only about 65 meters wide so it just fit. 

Yesterday was the first time we were able to ride in it due to weather and mud.  And man what a difference it made.  Its a little silly that I accommodate my horse this way, and many may tell me I should have kept it the way it is and made him get used to it.  And I agree, but I'm a big chicken and don't like falling off, so we will do it this way and no one gets stressed out.

There is one spot in the middle of the arena where the horses like to poo, so its a little wet and slippery but I think we will be ok.  But all his canter work was calm and cool, we were finally able to work on actual movements instead of circling everywhere.   We did serpentines and diagonals and transitions and center line work.  Going straight is so much easier when you have something to guide you.  Well it may not be easier, but it is easier to tell when you are crooked.  I'm super excited to have an arena back, because while I don't practice tests and  movements much its great to have markers to aim for. 

Now if I can just get the pasture ponies to stop knocking over the letters everything would be dandy. 

February 7, 2011

No going back!

Well, I turned in my entry form for the schooling show this weekend.  Now I only hope my new show clothes get here in time!  I didn't anticipate the blizzard from hell slowing down the shipment... oh well.  Its a schooling show so I can always ride in my schooling breeches, I just prefer to look a little more put together.

The show is this weekend and thanks to the Colorado weather, we've only rode 2-3 times in the last week and may get 2 more in before the show if we are lucky.  So this may not be our best performance, but we will get out there and see how it goes.  I'm used to a little more preparation but I also decided I can't wait anymore. 

Saturday is supposed to get up in the 40's so here is hoping that holds out.  For those of you in Colorado, the show is at Triple Creek Ranch, let me know if you are gonna be there too.  Dexter will be the giant hair bay snorting and whinnying at everybody.