Monday, May 31, 2010

My Favorite Picture

Have spent all night writing a report on a serial killer (it's for Gothic Lit - I told you my classes are interesting), but I thought I'd show you guys my absolute favorite picture from the weekend before I head to bed.

I love her relaxed but tidy jump over this fence, and her characteristic wild mane. It's like she's saying "Don't worry, I got this." You can't see from the picture, but to make an "accuracy" question the instructor told me to jump directly over the far left quarter of the fence and we nailed it.

Mmm. So much fun.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Back Home

As I sit here after returning home from the Inavale camp, sunburnt and exhausted and HUNGRY (don't worry, there's a microwave dinner cooking as I type. Parmesan crusted fish with penne pasta and veggies in tomato sauce. Delicious.), I am still as pleased as punch (just how pleased IS punch, anyway?) with how the weekend went. Can you tell I'm tired? When I'm tired I give in to all those little tangential asides that pop into my head as I write, which you now get to see as an excess of parenthetical digressions. Lucky you. I apologize in advance.


This weekend, for the uninitiated, involves two 1.5 hour lessons each day, one XC and one Stadium, for two days. Plus an optional lesson on the third day, which I always decline because by the third day my horse and I are exhausted. It's held at Inavale (they've recently redone their site and it looks lovely!), where the scenery is gorgeous and the people are great. That nice fellow in the picture on the main page - the man, not the baby! - is Luigi, one of the owners of the property and organizers of the recognized event. With his tractor, he helped us get our truck and trailer un-stuck from a squishy part of the parking pasture today. (It's okay, other people got stuck too. Also, this fish is really good. How is it that frozen dinners taste so good?)

Right, so, Inavale. I love it there and it's wonderful. The horses get to stay in open-air corrals or nice temporary stalls, whichever you prefer, and of course we prefer the open-air corral because our horses really like to be out. McKinna gets upset when her vision is really restricted by a fully closed-in stall. Open corral? Totally her cup of tea. We even scored one of the best ones, right underneath a giant tree which protects from sun AND rain.

I am much too tired to try to write up a whole report tonight. It also wouldn't make sense, because all of the (copious amounts of) pictures and video are still on the camera, and what's an eventing camp report without pictures and video? A lame one, that's what it is.

So instead, here's a miscellaneous collection of thoughts to tide you over. Also I apologize for the haphazard nature of this post. Did I mention that I'm tired?

- McKinna rocks. Hardcore. She's amazing. I think she is well on her way to "XC Machine" status, if she's not there already. Everyone thinks she is adorable. She tries her heart out for me, she's as honest as the day is long (here we go with the idioms again), she's fiery but not uncontrollable, she's intelligent and patient with me when I do things like get a horrible half-stride three times in a row to a big Swedish oxer, and in general she's wonderful.

- When getting horrible half distances to a 3' Swedish oxer three times in a row on the second day of intense work when your horse is tired and doesn't have quite enough energy to give 110% like she usually does, consider changing your line. Because, you know, that fixes it and you will get a perfect distance.

- White XC boots are probably not a good idea. I mean, it's fine. But really. Definitely a lack of long-term planning in that one.

- I think I'm too hard on myself sometimes. I forget that McKinna and I have only been in serious schooling since January. I need to remember that even though we've improved quickly we will sometimes hit speed bumps, and that it's okay. It's not that I had a total meltdown or anything, I just get discouraged sometimes over little things. And I feel guilty when I mess up, like when getting those horrible half distances to a 3' oxer etc.

- Almost comparable to the pleasure of a kickass XC ride is the pleasure of a really hot shower after a long weekend of horse camping. Ask me how I know.

- Speaking of horse camping, we know how to do it. Burgers on the grill for lunch, plenty of Kettle chips and cheesy popcorn (so. good.), pork chops and grilled vegetables for dinner, banana boats for The best part is sharing with fellow campers, because it's fun to get everyone together and hang out.

- Banana boats: slice open the top of a banana peel. Pull the peel out to the sides. Shove in chocolate chips and mini marshmallows. Wrap in foil and stick on grill until all melty and gooey and delicious.

- The look on McKinna's face when you go to tack her up for the fourth time in two days is PRICELESS. "You? AGAIN?"

- My trainer is awesome. Devin was one of the instructors at camp, I had great rides with her as always, and everyone I talked to really liked her.

- Sunscreen good. Sunburns bad.

- I think we have more clothing for McKinna than any other horse people I've met. This weekend alone we rotated through a blanket with neck cover, a sheet, and a fly sheet with neck cover. We also brought with us but did not use a second sheet and a cooler or two. These are among the perils of owning a grey horse, only offset slightly by the fact that when she's sparkling white everyone oohs and aahs over her.

- Have I mentioned that McKinna is a rock star? Especially on cross-country?

Okay, that's enough from me for the night. I promise tomorrow or the next day you'll get posts stuffed full of pictures, video, and silly commentary from me. I'm going to bed.

Thursday, May 27, 2010


Today I turned in THREE final papers for a combined total of 35 pages. If you're curious, I wrote: a short story in the Gothic terror style of Anne Radcliffe (plus critical preface), an original-idea scientific paper that proposed a line of research to determine the proximate physiological cause(s) of post-herd-takeover abortion in feral mares, and a primary-source based history paper on idolatry and saints in seventeenth-century New Spain.

So, you can see why I haven't posted for the last week or so.

I will do my very best to get you a quick post before I head off tomorrow, because this weekend is the camp at Inavale! This is probably my favorite horse thing of the year. Well, I haven't gone to the HT yet, but for now, the camp is my favorite. Unfortunately it has been raining all week - it is supposed to be nice this weekend, but fingers crossed for good footing and good weather.

Anyway. I'm off to take a nap, because I did not do very much sleeping last night.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Another Thought

As I was washing McKinna's legs before my jumping lesson on Monday, I noticed she was in heat. I think this may have something to do with her extraordinarily tense behavior on Saturday. The wonderpony has a history of being really, really cranky/tense/uncooperative for one ride and then being in heat a day or two later. Maybe she gets some sort of cramps or something related to the onset of estrus. I should have thought of's always a retrospective thing when this happens. I think that last summer, as the season went on, she wasn't as bad. Maybe I can just keep a hot pad with me, and if I ever get on and she's really tense, hop off and toss the hot pad on her back to help her relax, since it seems to be her back muscles that are tight? Makes sense...I get kinda cranky when I have cramps too.

Anyway, I'm still looking at everything else. I just bought an Albion Legend jumping saddle off of eBay (what?? I'm a tack junkie, I swear) and will try that on her when it arrives. Even though it isn't a high-end saddle, it's a bit of a step up from the Thornhill so if she likes it I will be quite happy. If she doesn't, oh well, back on eBay it goes. Next on the list to try is a Happy Mouth, which I mentioned in the last post.

The jumping lesson on Monday was (of course) lovely. Our flatwork is still improving by proverbial leaps and bounds. Devin still had me getting her to work by pushing her into a steady outside rein, then closing rein and leg when she tries to hollow and softening and stretching once she complies. I have to say, it does work - the more I can catch her hollowing attempts as they happen, the less frequently she tries to hollow in the first place. In the end I had a quiet, pretty supple, forward horse with a nice positive connection in the outside rein. Looking at the video, she was still more compact in the neck than I would like, though. This should go away as she keeps learning to reach for the bit.

Our canter work was absolutely delicious. We are approaching the ability to quietly, and in balance, transition upward. And the gait itself is SO much better. I was going around my canter circles grinning like an idiot because she was on a soft contact and I could half-halt with my abs. This is groundbreaking territory here, people!

The jumping was also quite nice. My position gets work as always - it's hard because, as Devin has explained, McKinna is short and I have a fairly long torso for my height. But the pony was good. Lots of work on quietly jumping, which we really got towards the end. We are also developing the first glimmerings of true adjustability! Two lines, both set for a 12' stride (McKinna usually gets about a 10 - 11' stride), were set for three and one strides. We aimed for a quiet four in the three, which we got, and a longer step to make the one-stride, which we also got. And she is learning to sit up and balance herself when I sit up and touch my seat down. Awesome feeling.

We ended by jumping the barrel on its side (2' high, 3' across the face). As per usual, the first time trotting in was a bit of a disaster, even with a guiding rail on one side. I feel bad as I know Devin uses this as an accuracy question and after last time (when McKinna clearly didn't understand the question) I decided I would school barrels at home until McKinna understood. But, I didn't. Sigh. Second time I sat down and she jumped, third time (still trotting) she started to rush so I tried to slow her down but I pulled and ruined it so we got another stop. After that we got our act together and I think she started to understand the question, because we cantered it and she didn't try to skitter sideways. She focused on it and jumped it dead center like a real fence - it was pretty nice, actually!

So I do feel bad about that, just because it is my fault for not schooling that question at home even though I knew it would come up again in a lesson. At least she understood after a few tries, which is better than the first time - that time, she would go over if I rode her perfectly but I still don't think she fully understood. But it's also silly that I feel so guilty, because it is a LESSON and that is where we teach things to our horses! I will be sure to practice barrels at home, though. I want to have no problems next time.

Also, we are working on little video to show you some video of McKinna when she's tense and McKinna when she's quiet and relaxed. I will put it up soon. Just watching the clips has given me some ideas, mostly about my position. I love my mother for all the videoing she does while I ride her horse :-) I have footage of almost every lesson, which is an awesome tool.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Softness, Part II

After posting about softness and reading all your wonderful comments (thank you - what a lot of good information was in there!), I went to a dressage lesson on Wednesday where I had the best lesson ever. I kid you not. It was glorious. Then, yesterday, I rode in a jumping clinic where she was quite horribly tense for pretty much the entire ride. So.

In the dressage lesson, I could tell from the moment I picked her up to start riding that we were going to be good. McKinna didn't pop her head up as soon as I picked up the reins (this comes in later). She was willing to work with me as I warmed up at the trot and did some ring figures. Then down to the big circle with Leslie, which is were we do most of our work - on a maybe 25m circle. Like I said, it was glorious. Leslie had me keep my hands where they should be, with a slightly longer rein, and continually ask McKinna to come down/out to me, not me shortening to meet her. It worked wonderfully.

We had a soft and swinging back, longer and slower steps, and a horse willing to take contact while lifting and carrying herself, moving in a light bend from my inside leg. Even at the canter, I was able to get softness and stretch and a quiet, reasonably-paced gait.

Very exciting.

Basically everything I was doing was this cycle: ask her to soften, ask her to lift that inside ribcage over, half-halt with the outside, a little more forward, ask her to soften and reach forward...

This was I think the best dressage ride I've ever had on McKinna.

Then we come to yesterday, which was a Standards and Ratings clinic for Pony Club. I had high hopes, because she hung out in her stall all day munching on hay as quiet as can be, was nice and relaxed while I tacked her up, and was easygoing while I walked around on a long rein waiting for the last group to finish up.

But seriously. As soon as I picked up my reins, up pops the head and away we go. She was tense. She was rushing or sticky by turns. She was counterflexing. For a bit, when I tried what Leslie was having me do - that is, keep my hands where they should be and ask her to reach out to me - it seemed to help, but I couldn't get any consistency with lengthened reins as she'd usually just keep her head up and start rushing. Every time I tried to pick up a light contact, she hollowed out. Eventually I was able to get some semblance of a working trot, but she was not feeling cooperative.

Then we headed through gridwork (this was a very short ride, as it was more of a demo for the clinician to explain to auditors what the standards are). She was fine, if still tense. Trot poles to X to vertical, two strides to the oxer. The oxer was set on a long stride for us, and I was pleased with how well McKinna opened up her stride to jump it, but then it took me the whole arena to get her to come back. I just didn't have soft half halts - they weren't going through. No matter how I tried to do them, with body, with hands, carrying my hands, hands lower, with elbows or shoulders or mostly the outside rein or whatever - I mostly met up against a wall.

Then I rode a short course. I trotted a circle before going through the grid, asking her to stretch down, which she sort of did but not really, and it did make for a more relaxed ride through the grid. Still no half-halt when I needed to trot to change my lead. The other fences rode decently, not really rushed but definitely not calm and relaxed. After I landed from the last fence, I trotted a circle and really gave her the reins. She did stretch down for most of the circle, though she wasn't thrilled about it. I discussed my performance with the audience, then went away to trot some figures down at the end of the arena to get her to calm down.

Worked on trot figure-8s, resisting the urge to shorten my reins, just continually asking her to soften and come to me. (I have gotten better at staying soft and relaxed in my body when she tightens up. Thank you trainers. It did sort of work, and I think if I'd been super tense it would have made things worse.) I got a little response out of her, though not much. I asked her to do one canter and got my half-halt going through a little more, then did the course again.

It went better. The gridwork was pretty soft and quiet, I was able to bring her back to me quietly in order to change leads, and the rest of the course rode pretty well.

So there is a lot to think about. One is the almost reflexive way she throws her head up when I touch the reins to shorten them. She just had her teeth floated in the fall; our vet checked her only a few weeks ago and said she was looking just fine. Still, maybe I will take a look in there and see if I can find anything going wrong. Perhaps it is the bit? I am going to buy a french-link loose-ring Happy Mouth from the local tack store as soon as it is in stock. Perhaps she will prefer the lighter, softer bit. I also have a heavy eggbutt french link, heavier than the lozenge-style loose ring she's in right now, so perhaps she would prefer a heavier, more solid bit.

Maybe it's saddle fit. This one is nagging at me. Both my saddles appear to fit well to my not-highly-trained but still fairly picky eye. I don't know if it's one or the other or both that's bothering her - last week, my jumping lesson was great and my dressage lesson was tense. This week, my dressage lesson was great and my jumping lesson was tense. I am in the process of scoping out saddle fitters in the region who are NOT affiliated with a particular brand, and seeing how much this will cost. Her back does not appear to be sore to palpation, but she does sometimes make rude faces when putting the saddle pad on or adjusting a blanket in the wither area. I think this may have something to do with it...but then why would I get such lovely work sometimes?

So I guess this is the plan. Check out saddle fit ASAP, try out different bits to see if there's a difference, and just keep taking consistent lessons to see if it is merely a resistance-to-work thing.

I admit I'm feeling a bit discouraged after yesterday's ride. She can be so damn good when she's working right, but it seems like every time I take her somewhere she just can't get past her own tension. And you can't force relaxation, obviously. But really? This was a clinic in the arena we take lessons in weekly. The fences were easy. The work wasn't hard. It seems like something is bothering her, but what, and why so inconsistently? And why does firmly pushing her into softness work one day, and quietly asking her to come to softness work the next time, and neither works the time after that?

Grumble, mutter, etc. Despite all my frustration, I am still happy with McKinna. She's come a long way in just four months of lessons, and she's a good horse. We will work through this stuff, it's just another rough patch - like the canter, which I thought would never be fixed, which is now pretty reliably three-beat and not at the speed of Mach 5. We'll get down to the bottom of whatever is causing all this resistance, whether it's physical or mental. I'm thinking of, just for the heck of it, riding her with just a neck rope for a little while, doing some flatwork out in the field or something. It would be just like her to calm down with less aids. But then, she never gets all tense at home, so I don't know how much good it would do.

Anyway. One way or another, we'll figure out the softness thing until we can be pretty consistently relaxed and focused. Eventually.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


This is a concept I chew over constantly, like a dog with a particularly tasty bone. It's a tough issue with any horse, but with McKinna especially.

Pandora was pretty straightforward - she really didn't evade intentionally, only out of lack of strength or understanding. (This is one thing, by the way, that her new owner loves. She actually called her 'push-button.') So, softness was easy: you ride correctly, continually asking her to come to you and soften and carry herself. When she does, you soften back and ride on happily with your steady contact. She maintains correct work as long as she can, then loses it and you come back to asking.

With McKinna, it's a little different. She is a compact little coiled spring of a horse, but she's a vroooooOOOM kind of sports car next to Pandora's nice, steady Honda Civic. Lots of power, but a lot more sensitive and takes a much more tactful ride. Now add a mind of her own to that feather-light steering and horsepower, and you get the picture...

As I've mentioned before, with McKinna it's a delicate balance between bullying and being gentle. If you are always following and softening with her, you won't get consistent work - she bobs around the contact, drops her outside shoulder, pops her head up every few strides, and takes faster instead of longer steps. You need some firmness to get her to take a connection and quit trying to evade. But if you bully too much, she coils that spring up super-tight, hollows out, and tucks her nose to get away from you.

The problem is, after you're firm and she gives to a nice elastic connection, you have to soften. When she pops above the bit, Devin has me anchor my outside rein and add calf to push her forward...but when she gives, I have to give too, without relinquishing connection. But all this can happen in just seconds. McKinna relaxes into the outside rein and I relax my elbows, but a half second later she's thinking about putting her head straight up and I have to correct it, as well as keep that outside shoulder from drifting out.

I struggle with the idea because I don't like being too firm with McKinna. This is a complex issue for me, stemming from a lot of different directions. Not least of these is that I just don't like the idea of forcing something with the bit. What I don't know about dressage could fill a lot of libraries, but I know that ideally you shouldn't be forcing anything, especially with your hands. McKinna also tends to feel very irritated and trapped when you get overbearing with your aids, which sends everything in a downward spiral. So I am reluctant to do this "fixing" of the outside rein, where I strongly resist her when she inverts. What if I'm forcing her into a frame? What if I'm building bad habits? What if she doesn't like the bit, and that's why she's resistant?

And the first few minutes Devin had me doing this, it felt like I had to anchor my hand every three seconds to keep her from sticking her head and neck up high. But I kept going, because I tend to believe that if you're riding with a trainer who knows you and as long as she isn't asking you to do anything unsafe, you should just shut up and do what she says. You're paying your trainers because they know more than you, right? Right.

So I shut up and I did what she said. After a few minutes, McKinna was steady in my outside rein, I only had to close my outside hand firmly a few times around the ring to keep her from popping up, and after establishing that firmness I was able to ride with very quiet, allowing hands. Apparently following Devin's instructions was the correct thing to do, though I am still wondering about the bit and as soon as the local tack shop gets it in stock I'm trying a Happy Mouth french link.

We are also approaching Real Canter territory faster and faster. I don't canter much at home at this point, because the arena's slightly smaller than a 20m circle and McKinna isn't quite ready to canter that small of a circle right off the bat - she gets anxious and rushes. But in lessons, we are starting to get a discernible 3-beat, rhythmic gait. I know it sounds silly, but this is so exciting. We are breaking through a really important issue here! I can get a soft connection and I can (sort of) influence her with a half-halt to get her to shift her weight back and slow down. The half-halt isn't totally there yet. Both of us are a little tentative about the newfound cantering ability, I think! She's less responsive than I would like, but she is learning to respond which is the important part.

I loved the jumping we did in the lesson last night. The fences set up were a very simple, low course that Devin moved up to about 2'3, maybe 2'6 at the absolute most. So we focused on being quiet, soft, and calm - all good things for McKinna to be while jumping! First we trotted a small cross-rail on a dead straight line and came to a quiet halt a few strides away, in order to establish the "this is no big deal" attitude. We finished with three fences on a large circle, focusing three strides ahead (so thinking about landing 'in your track,' not about the fence) and not changing anything about position since they were such low fences. It worked wonders, especially when I really thought about landing in my track. McKinna was soft, quiet, and she figured out the distances on her own while I just cruised along up there. Very cool. It was a nice confirmation that we're on the right track, no pun intended.

Anyone else run into these training issues? I think I tend to err on the side of being too soft and giving with my body and hands. Leslie is always telling me that I need to ride correctly with my body, not changing to follow the horse. They both always tell me not to give away the connection as soon as I get it.

Oh well - it is about the journey, after all, not the destination. This stuff is the fun part!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Rating Report

Here's my full report from last weekend's rating. Pictures, ahoy! I had a good time, though it was stressful and a lot of hard work. I think I'm good on the rating game for awhile, now. On the plus side, with only one horse to focus on (!!) everything gets easier.

The day started off with a formal inspection, where you come tacked up with the appropriate wraps on your horse's legs (at C-2, you have to do a stable wrap and a shipping wrap). This is always the most stressful part of the day for me. Getting and keeping a white horse clean is difficult, plus you're worrying about any little speck of dust that may have settled on your tack since the night before, and - in my case - your horse is dancing around, her legs are slippery because they're so clean, and your wraps just will. not. go. right.

I had to redo both my wraps after lunch. The horse and I were much more calm, and after one retry on the stable and two on the shipping I passed. Obviously something to practice for the next rating! I need to keep my shipping wrap tighter down by the heels. Also, the examiner suggested I add quite a bit more padding to my shipping wrap as it wasn't thick enough.

After formals came flatwork, which was my next most stressful section. McKinna settled a little once we got moving, but she was still fairly tense. It's a delicate juggling game in ratings, because Pony Club wants you to demonstrate that you can have a perfect basic balanced position, i.e., straight vertical line from shoulder to hip, straight line elbow to bit, etc...but in order to get McKinna to soften and stretch down, I often need to ride with my hands wide and low. I compromised by doing what I needed to do in my 15-minute self-guided warmup, but did my best to bring them closer together and where they're technically supposed to be for the rest of my ride.

The flatwork went pretty well, and I was happy with McKinna and my position. The examiners liked my position, noted that I rode tactfully on a tense horse (a consistent message!), and told me I need to remember to keep my hands a little closer together (also a consistent message). I need to work for a longer, freer stride with a stronger inside leg to outside rein connection. This makes sense, as McKinna was pretty light in my hands. They also really liked my hand gallop to canter transition, and said I should practice smoother transitions from posting to sitting trot when riding without stirrups as she tends to hollow out when I do that.

Then we had my favorite part, the oral examinations. I studied well and knew my stuff, so it was pretty low-stress for me. In the comments, they did suggest that I add more nutrition information to my conditioning chart in my record book. I left it pretty simple since McKinna is an easy keeper and her grain doesn't change much when she's getting fit for Novice, but I think they want to see an awareness of the increases in energy requirements that come with conditioning.

After lunch and rebandaging came the fun part, jumping and XC! McKinna was foot-perfect through the grid and it felt nice, though I did feel myself propping onto my toes a bit over the 3' oxer. This is definitely something to work on with Devin in lessons.

 So easy that she just overjumps instead of bothering to pick her legs up.

The course they assigned us was pretty difficult: open with an offset line, around to a short diagonal four-stride, around a short corner to a very tight bending with an almost 90 degree angle, then all the way around to a longish one-stride. It was tough to ride and our first round just didn't have the rhythm we needed, so we got in awkwardly to a lot of the fences. I discussed the issues with the examiners and re-rode the course, making sure to maintain a more powerful canter and counting to myself to keep a steady rhythm.

Round 1: McKinna is displeased with my poor riding on the tight bending line.

Round 2: McKinna appreciates that her rider figured out how to steer.

Examiner's comments: good position, hands a bit too wide again, and also that my knee/ankles looked stiff in the beginning (same thing I noticed when stiffening over the oxer) so I should make sure to address that in my own warmup.

Then out to XC, which we haven't done since July (and before that hadn't done for a year). I know, bad me. I just didn't have time to get out and school. Lucky for me, my horse is awesome, and she was excellent about the whole thing. First, we cantered in a "group:"


Then, we did our course:

 Over the little fence in the woods. As an aside, I'm seriously leaning in this picture. Bad me.

We did only five fences but they were on a long, gallopy track, and McKinna was great. She got a little anxious while galloping, and on one uphill every time I tried to soften my reins and cruise she surged forward and was breathing heavily. Thankfully it was a long hill, so I had time to stroke her neck and talk to her and get her calmed down before we made the turn to our last two fences. She settled, we finished off the course, and she came right back to a calm walk. She jumped all the fences just fine. Hesitated a bit at one question that went from light into dark and had a natural fence in a clump of trees, but she went and I don't blame her for being a bit hesitant. After we finished she was barely blowing and had only sweated a little bit.

Cooling out after the course

After that we wrapped up with some longeing (she was a bit nervous so less push-button than usual, but no big deal), trailer loading, and TPR checking. When longeing I need to be careful to keep the whip pointed straight at her hocks instead of letting it trail out behind.

Then we were done and got to head home!

I learned some useful things about my riding, and now I know that before I attempt my next rating I need to be able to establish a soft, relaxed, connected ride with McKinna with my hands closer together. I also really need to figure out my form over fences. We've made some progress, but I tend to get too stiff even when all my body parts are in the right place, and this knee-pinching leading to the toe-propping or whatever it is has got to go. So, lots of work to do, but I'm not in a rush and this summer we should be getting plenty of good instruction.

I will put some videos up soon, too.

Mom got in a couple nice rides on McKinna this weekend while I was out of town. Poor pony doesn't know what she's in for, being the only horse again ;-)

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

It's Official!

I didn't want to post anything until everything was official-- but now it is, so I can tell you!

Pandora sold this weekend, and as I type this she is on her trailer-ride up to her new home in Washington. An extremely nice lady came down to look at her on Sunday and absolutely loved her. They had a great test ride, and she decided right there that it was a done deal!

I am a bit sad, but Pandora is going to fit her new owner perfectly. She has her own beautiful place where she keeps her horses, and Pandora will get to live out in a big paddock with a run-in shed. Pandora's neighbor will be an old Appy gelding who looks very handsome, in the big beefy Appaloosa sort of way. Her new owner has ridden dressage and such for years, she's learning to event, and she loves to go on trail rides over fences and at the beach. After she told me she was just dying for a horse with lots of "go" but who still had a good brain and who she just wants to have a lot of fun with, I was pretty sure they would work out great!

So today she went off with both saddles, a couple bales of hay, and a small collection of blankets. Her new owner can't wait to start riding and I am very happy for both of them.

Of course it is bittersweet for me. I've had Pandora for just less than two years, and in that time I have been able to watch her grow up so much. She has gained a ton of confidence, built up all this gorgeous muscling, and learned a lot under saddle. On Sunday evening after we were winding down, I went for one last ride: bareback in a halter, of course. We hacked down the road and back up, nice and quiet, basking in the evening sun. Then I nudged her over into the grass beside the road, went for a gorgeous smooth canter up the hill, and called it good.

Look at those perked ears and that awesome canter.

She is the sweetest horse I've ever met, and probably has the best attitude of any horse I've ever met too. I will definitely miss that, and her sweet face poking out through the stall window every day.

But at the same time, I have a great sense of accomplishment about this. I feel like I can dust my hands off and say, "My work here is done." I took a sweet but slightly unsure young mare (she was only 6!), one with a LOT of physical tension, and turned her into a soft, supple, confident partner. I took her out schooling XC this year and had a beautifully responsive ride and a horse who cheerfully handled every single fence. In dressage lessons, I actually heard Leslie say that we were Working Correctly. Pandora is now on the road to a long, happy life enjoying her work with someone who adores her for her sensibility and her athleticism.

And I need this time. Keeping up two horses for the last four full months has been very tiring - on me AND my checkbook! - and I am ready for a break. Further, the horse trials at Inavale are in just two short months and I will really need to use this time to prepare myself and McKinna. This summer I'll be doing some working-student type work for Devin, my eventing trainer, and I think I'll be really glad I only have one horse. And, as I keep reminding myself, there are SO MANY HORSES OUT THERE. So I try not to get too hung up on "giving up" something truly special-- because I know she is, but I also know that she will be very special to her new owner now and there are always more special ones out there waiting.

It's all been a bit of a blur these past few days, magnified by a particularly busy week at school. I'm sure I will have more to say on this once the dust settles a little, but suffice to say that I am so pleased with everything Pandora and I have accomplished together and I can't wait to see the wonderful time her new owner has with her.

Rating report up in a few days. Off to write another paper...

Saturday, May 1, 2010


I passed the rating :) I am now officially a C-2! It was a long day, but fun. Lots of good feedback, too - I will post pictures, videos, and the report soon. But for now, here's a happy me and McKinna after XC.
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