Wednesday, October 27, 2010


Well, turns out McKinna was just about due for her teeth to be done. Our vet said that if she was just in light work she could probably go another 6 months or so, but since we're doing hard dressage work and asking her to really be on the bit, they needed to be done now. She was just starting to develop some points on the outsides of her molars.

So it was a pretty quick job, maybe half an hour. Poor thing, they always look so pathetic when they're sedated. I brought my laptop and sat in her stall on her big salt block doing homework until she came awake enough to go back outside. She also got her fall 5-way vaccination. (Which has influenza, rhino, EEE, WEE, and tetanus, says the Pony Clubber in me.) Hooray!

Unfortunately, the Mud is officially upon us. I have to hose McKinna's legs off when I bring her in to ride, now. The ground near the gates in the turnouts is beginning to turn to mush. Grumble, grumble, sigh. I hate mud.

I'm giving Mom a lesson on McKinna tonight, so that should be fun. I don't think we'll be out tomorrow because I have a big Evolution exam on Friday, so I'll probably hop on for a little while too, though I was also thinking about riding the big grey TB who boards out at our barn. He's a handsome and sweet guy.

PS, I won't be writing about it much until I've accomplished most of the research - which won't be until next year - but I've found a way to make my Honors College senior thesis have to do with horses. Oh yes. I think it will make the process so much more engaging for me.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Dressage Lessons = Love

As we pulled out of the barn's driveway yesterday evening, trailer and pony in tow, my mom joked that I would have a hard time topping last week's lesson simply because it was so good.

Well, to make a long story short, it DOES get even better!

It's getting to the point these days where the horse I have while warming up gives me big clues about how the lesson is going to go. Last night she felt free, loose, swinging, like the motion that started in her hind end could travel all the way through her spine and up her neck to her poll. Before, it felt like everything stopped at her shoulders. (Funny how you don't realize how much something is restricting your horse until you fix it.) The saddle is staying put and as a result she's willing to reach out with those shoulders and stretch her neck out to meet my contact.

So when Leslie walked in I told her that McKinna was generally being amazing. And, for the entire lesson, she kept it up.

There's several new things we have begun working on. One of them is a slight shoulder-fore in the trot when I head down a long side: outside rein squeeze asks the shoulders to come in off the track, inside leg keeps the bend, outside leg keeps the body straight. Inside rein asks for her to remain soft and supple, and outside rein again supports so she doesn't overbend.

It's difficult and I have to laugh sometimes as I watch us in the mirror and we look quite drunk. I lose the bend and fix it, but then we drift inside so I add more inside leg, but then I lose the haunches and they swing out. Sometimes, when I get it just right, it feels great! It's a very steady, powerful connection that I get when this happens. McKinna is a bit bemused by the whole thing, but pretty willing to go around doing strange things if I ask.

We've also begun working on sitting trot, which mostly involves working on my riding of course. Here I saw a huge improvement even over last week's ride-- last week when I began sitting McKinna seemed a bit put-out, would slow down or speed up and hollow out. Some of it was me not getting my balance right, but I think some of it was just a little confusion as I rarely sit the trot. This week, that was all gone: as long as I was balanced I could keep her coming up into a soft, steady contact, and she was really stepping out.

Leslie had me go back to posting for a moment whenever I got too discombobulated with myself. This gave me a chance to rebalance, reassured McKinna, and then allowed me to go back to sitting with a better trot. It's amazing to me that I can do this. It seems like just a short time ago that we were working, working, working just to get a soft and supple and forward trot - now, it's working to get a better sitting trot, and as soon as I post she snaps back to perfect!

This sitting trot business is allowing us to school much better canter transitions, as well. If I talk too much about her canter I am going to explode into a gooey mass of happiness, so I'll spare you, but basically it is well within real-canter territory at this point. I'm talking soft, quiet, three beats, a definite rolling rhythm, not fast, and beginning to straighten up instead of lean. I even have a half halt most times, and I'm beginning to set some weight to the outside to help her straighten out even more. SO COOL. I make noises of glee frequently in my lessons now.

Anyway, when we canter from the sitting trot I can coordinate my aids much better. If I remember to keep my left arm flexible instead of rigid, and I give her a firm request to supple as I hug with my inside leg and brush my outside leg just a little, I can get this lovely flowing transition. At this point, we're working on consistently getting that softness. Same with the downward transitions: I actually got one last night where, from canter to trot, the connection never wavered and she stretched into my hands immediately at the sitting trot. Hooray!

Finally, we have also kept at the whole trot-lengthening business. We tried some at the end of the lesson last night, and wow is that stuff fun. I can't get it totally right yet, but when we do, it feels amazing. I can actually feel McKinna lifting her withers, stretching her neck forward into a supple steady contact, and powering from behind into these bigger, longer steps.

I think Leslie keeps expecting me to get bored with all the subtler, more finicky stuff we've been working on. Far from it! It's practically the highlight of my week ;)

Teeth check and vaccinations for the wonderpony today. Then we have quite a bit of Pony Club stuff coming up this month: an upper level assessment clinic on Sunday the 7th, with a national PC examiner working with you to identify where you're at in terms of the standards of your next rating; a bandaging/wrap clinic with an upper-level PCer the following Saturday; and then on Saturday the 20th, our club is bringing Anna Carkin down for a flat and jumping clinic.

Lots of fun stuff to look forward to!

Sunday, October 24, 2010


On Thursday I got a rare chance to just skip out to the barn for a quick ride on my own. No lessons, no Pony Club, no agenda, just wanted to go ride.

Everything was calm and quiet out there, the horses settled into their dinners, nobody there but me. McKinna is used to the routine and just kept eating her hay as I groomed her and tacked her up. I didn't want anything fancy-- I had a long week and I just wanted to go for one of those rides. You know the kind. A ride that doesn't have any point or any goal other than to enjoy your time with your horse, a ride where you remind yourself how wonderful it is to be able to do this.

So that's what I did. We walked, trotted, and cantered around the outdoor arena as the sunset faded from brilliant orange to a softer pink and then the cool grey-blue of night. No agenda, no goals. I asked for roundness because it's more comfortable and better for both of us, but relatively round and supple is generally McKinna's default state now, so it didn't take much effort or thought. All I heard was the sound of McKinna's hooves going lightly over the sand and our breathing. She seemed to pick up on my mood and just offered a calm, steady pace.

As I was riding these effortless gaits and then putting her away, I kept thinking, "I am so damn lucky." How amazing is it that I get this chance? This mare, this animal that's born to be spooky and skittish and flighty, will happily carry me around the arena, going along in harmony with me without so much as a wayward glance. She'll leap over obstacles, gallop when I ask, halt when I say, tie to anything. Through everything, the training struggles and progress, the stress of school and ratings and everything else, this is the best you can get. Just you and the horse and a quiet, perfect doesn't get any luckier than this.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Definitely Better.

Methinks I have my wonderpony back! We had a dressage lesson with Leslie on Monday night and, despite being in a seriously raging heat, McKinna was awesome.

I mean really. Raging. As in, suddenly desperately attached to a gelding that she's not even turned out with and calling for him when they get separated. As in, squatting and peeing at everything in sight. As in, snuggling up to the fence next to a different gelding and cheerfully letting him bite her crest.


But, despite her apparent wild distraction and inability to hold still, she was a star for the lesson. I was concerned I wouldn't be able to get very good work, since she tends to be very tight and resistant when she's in heat or a few days before - I've always suspected she gets a little sore or something. But nope! She settled right down to work as usual.

These lessons have been so much fun lately. We're slowly but steadily nudging our way into 1st level territory, increasing the connection, asking her to trot in shoulder-fore to strengthen and straighten her, leg yields, fun stuff. Our canter work was *amazing!* I actually said 'woohoo' several times through the lesson. And had several intelligent epiphanies. Sample: "Wow! When she's leaning at the canter, if I ride her from both legs into both reins, she straightens out!"

Regular genius, right here. Yup.

It's a good thing Leslie and I are so perfectly matched. I say stupid things, she says stupid things, sometimes I laugh so hard I run the risk of falling off my horse. Every dressage lesson is kind of like a party with some really good training thrown in.

I tried out a 'new' dressage saddle for the lesson, too. It's 'new' because we've had it for quite some time - I got a screaming deal online, we tried it on her and it appeared to fit her very well, then we sat in it and went "WTF these stirrup bars are WAY too far forward to put you in a decent position" and decided we'd sell it. So I hadn't ridden in it at all, really.

Well, we hadn't got around to selling it yet, so we tried it again and actually rode in it a little. Surprise surprise - the stirrup bar looks super far forward, but it actually doesn't put you in a chair seat. It's an Albion Original Comfort, for the curious. And it appears to work great! Leslie checked out the fit and was really happy with how it works for McKinna - no tightness up front, sits nicely behind, and best of all IT DOESN'T SLIDE FORWARD onto her shoulders while I ride! Hooray.

The saddle also puts me in a pretty good position, ironically. I think my posture was more upright and my hip angle more open, because my hip flexors were feeling awfully stretched-out by the end of the ride - just like when you drop your stirrups and stretch your heel down and do sitting trot and canter for awhile. So, that's good. Once I adjust to the different position it should be good as gold. And Leslie says my leg was stable.

I haven't had a chance to ride since then, as school is kind of kicking my butt and I've been teaching lessons to a couple ladies out at our barn. (Which is really really fun, by the way, and super rewarding to see how they and their horses keep improving every time!) Tonight I'm helping with a Pony Club fundraiser, but I'm thinking about driving out to the barn afterward so I can get a schooling ride in.

So yes. I'm happy to have my happy horse back. She is just so dang much fun to ride, it shouldn't be allowed! There's nothing better than sitting up there and feeling like you and your horse are so much in sync that you could ask for anything and get a happy, willing answer. This is why I love dressage. I'd be bored out of my mind if that's all we ever did, but when you mix it in with the jumping it's so satisfying. I guess that's why I'm an eventer :)

Saturday, October 16, 2010

All Better?

I'm pretty sure that a good gallop is a cure for any evil, just so you know. Per chiropractor's orders, I saddled up on Wednesday and headed for the hay field. McKinna was all kinds of wound up-- head in the air, scooting at movements in the underbrush, general silliness. I had to trot a good three laps around the field before she settled and stretched into my hands a little bit.

So, finally, I let her pick up a canter. We cruised down one side of the field, a good soft hand gallop, nothing exciting, maybe a slow N pace. Balanced around the turn because the grass is getting longer and I was worried it could be a bit slippery. Then we turned onto the straightaway up the long gradual hill and I really let her fly. We were hauling some serious butt! I don't have a perfect feel for pace (times like these I'm jealous of Stacey's supercool heart-rate monitor tech) but I am somewhat experienced with testing out different gears, and I'm pretty sure we were going on at least a very fast Training, or maybe a slow Prelim, pace.

I haven't gone that fast in quite awhile! It was awesome. She didn't even lose any power when the hill got a little steeper, just dug in and blasted up. Definitely NOT the mysterious lack of power I was experiencing a couple weeks ago. Then we came back to a walk, walked down the steep part of the hill, and picked up our right lead. I let her go down the long side again, came up the backside of the hill, and decided to let her canter down the front face of the hill too. I've actually never done that before - it's not STEEP as in unsafe, it's just a pretty good incline and I've never felt like she's been balanced enough to canter it. But she felt great, so I just settled into a light seat and supported with my leg. She cruised down with no problem.

McKinna was a happy camper after that gallop. Warm and a bit sweaty, but ready to go another twenty rounds it felt like. Hosed and scraped her a little, put her in her stall with her hay, and that was that!

She then got Thursday off.

Yesterday was a Pony Club jumping lesson with Devin, which went very well. It was so cool to have other people jumping the same heights as me! One of the girls did lower stuff, but she AND her horse just started jumping a couple months ago and they are already cantering short courses in quiet, steady fashion. Certainly better than I ever started out...

McKinna was a little strung out in her canter during the flat warmup, and Devin had me sit in a little more to get her to step under herself and slow, but it wasn't happening much. I just gave McKinna the benefit of the doubt - she just got adjusted and her only work since then has been a gallop, so it's understandable that she might have a bit of difficulty collecting. As long as she went along politely, I just let her be.

Luckily, once the jumping started I felt like we had a better canter. Devin set up a monster of a course, lots of possibilities for crazy rollbacks and bending lines and regular lines, so it was pretty fun. McKinna was basically her rock star self. Easy to ride, pretty straightforward. Not a 100% canter but still a pretty darn good one, and it got better as the evening went on. By the end we jumped an 11-fence course with several jumps set on 20m turns, with at least half the course bending or straight lines on related distances, set at 2'9 to 3'ish. Including a line from a swedish oxer to a 3' parallel oxer on an angle. Pretty sweet.

The last round I really focused on building a bigger canter and riding the jumps a little more aggressively, aiming for a slightly longer-than-usual spot because she tends to want the deep ones. It worked out beautifully! She had this wonderful, flowing jump over pretty much all the fences and we absolutely nailed all the tricky lines. We did have a couple bobbles, almost entirely my fault. About halfway through the course, on a turn to a single fence, I started second-guessing the longer-spot strategy and picked to the fence and we got a super deep spot without enough power. Sigh. I went back to my original plan and the next fences rode great.

She also had a weird hesitation at the last fence, I think because I didn't show her soon enough that we were headed for it. What impressed me was two things: first, when she jumped, I stayed mostly in the middle of her and got a bit left behind. That means I'm not jumping ahead pretty much ever anymore! Yay. Second, she hesitated, but then when she took off it was a good clean powerful jump and she cleared the fence with no trouble. That tells me that over the course of the evening we successfully developed that power and confidence in her, to the point that she still had a lovely jump after a quick pause. I just circled around and jumped it again and it was as beautiful as all the rest. Goooood pony.

So I'm very pleased with McKinna right now and feeling optimistic that the chiro work has done some magic. I definitely haven't felt that level of easy strength off the ground from her in awhile. Next test will be the dressage lesson on Monday. This weekend we'll just have some fun, wash her tail, and go for some light rides.

At the end of the lesson, one of the two brothers who just joined our club (seriously! boys! in Pony Club!) said, "Is that your horse?"

"Yes she is," I said. "Well...technically she's my mom's horse."

And that's just how it works.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Return of the Chiropractor

Well, I was going to play some Twilight Princess for awhile on this rainy Sunday morning before settling into my pile of schoolwork for the day, but my Wii remotes are being finicky. So I figured I would write a blog post instead. Lucky you!

I'm about to start Week 3 of classes. So far everything has been on the edge of manageable - I'm not quite ahead, but I'm not quite behind either. Bit of an uncomfortable place to be at in the first few weeks, since it invariably gets worse (Week 4 is when everyone usually starts to get nervous, and by Week 6 the majority of people I talk to in a day declare that they are having the worst week ever). So I'm spending quite a bit of time on my reading and homework and notes and such. Good thing I have no social life!

Gene, the chiropractor, finally came out to work on McKinna yesterday and I am sure glad he did! She had four major issues going on, all directly related to things we have noticed lately: first, a torque back near where the thoracic and lumbar vertebrae meet, complimented by a pelvic rotation. That's where our mysterious loss of "it" was coming from out on the XC course. Her hind end was just way out behind her, and there was no way for her to get up under herself. He said the tweak in the back is pretty common among horses being asked to come up to the next level of collection and lateral work, since there's quite a bit of flexing in that area. Hmm...lately we've been working on more 1st level stuff....

She also had some tight muscles in her hind end from dealing with the skeletal kinks.

Then, she had quite a bit going on in her ribcage, which was the main cause of all her wither grumpiness lately. He worked quite a bit on her withers and ribs from both sides, doing things to have her really stretch out the muscles on each side and something with the ribs to get her to release. She was NOT pleased about the rib adjustment and gave him a really nasty look, which I had to laugh at. She's very guarded about the chiro work, but she's very expressive in her face. It's clear when she hasn't quite released whatever he's working on, because she has this very unimpressed rude look on her face. When it does finally let go, she licks and chews and turns her head towards him. If he's in the middle of an adjustment she doesn't like, she'll turn her head around to him and poke him lightly with her nose. Funny horse.

The last major issue, the biggest one, was in the middle of her neck on the left side. He said he actually had to use manual manipulation on that one, which he only has to use maybe twelve times a year. Usually he uses stretches and holds to get the horse into a position, relaxing the muscles until he releases and when they recoil they make the adjustment themselves. On this one he had to actually do the release himself. Gene said that pretty much the only time he has to do manual manipulation is if he's working on a horse after a severe crash, or if it's a really really old problem. He said this in McKinna's neck felt like an old thing, something she's probably had as long as we've had her.

That, he said, is a big part of why I can never get her to soften and bend as well to the left in her jaw and neck - she wants to tilt her head instead of just turning her face and neck.

She had some small other stuff in her atlas/axis area and lower neck, but those were the major four. It must be because we've begun stepping up the level of work so much, because normally it's just a few pretty minor adjustments and she's on her way. By the end of the session, McKinna was a pretty happy, relaxed girl. Gene actually got a few big yawns and eye-rolls out of her after one adjustment on her neck.

He even said to give her three or four pretty light days, which I've never had him suggest before. He said she needs time to get that hind end all sorted out before we start asking her to collect again with the dressage work or jumping. I asked if a gallop in a few days would help, thinking that it's sort of the exact opposite of collection, and he said that would be ideal. So we're going to go for a little gallop on Tuesday or Wednesday :) Doctor's orders!

So I am glad we finally managed to coordinate our schedules for the appointment. It sure appears that McKinna needed it. We'll give her the prescribed easy few days, go for a gallop on Wednesday, and then ride in a Pony Club jumping lesson on Friday. I'm curious to see what differences I notice when we take work up again.

Alright, that's all for now. I need to go spend some good quality time with physics, ecology, evolution, and creative writing...

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


Weeell, so much for all my super-duper hopes about skipping around all the Training fences at Inavale on Saturday. McKinna just wasn't on her game like usual - it was actually a really similar feeling to the jumping lesson we had a few days before. Nothing major, but when I asked her to power up the energy just wasn't there. She'd gallop when I sent her forward and half-halt when I asked, but "it" just wasn't there. You know, "it". Her usual bold, controlled attack of the fences, that feeling that I can just wind up all that power and let it launch us over any fence.

I know it's not her feet, because at one point we were cantering through an empty water complex (= gravel footing) to jump up a bank, and she was 100% fine. Yay for rock-crunching barefoot feet!

And it's not like she was jumping terribly. She was her usual fantastic self up and down banks, through the water, and over the smaller stuff, jumping everything out of stride as usual. It's just...the bigger stuff she wouldn't give me the strength, didn't want to attack the fence, and wanted to hesitate just a tiny bit on takeoff. We still schooled some rolltops and one Training-level log pile, and it all went fine. To anyone who doesn't know her, nothing would seem out of the ordinary. But I know her really well, and I know that she just wasn't quite on.

So, no big deal. We still had a good, positive schooling session. As for now, I'm guessing she's just feeling a little overworked and maybe a bit sore. I sure felt like hell after a week of trying to adjust to four hard classes while throwing in a dressage, jumping, and XC lesson all two days apart from each other. McKinna confirmed this suspicion by spending Sunday and Monday turning around and walking out into her run every time I came into her stall ;) Sometimes she does that just because, but a lot of times she does it when she's getting worn out.

So this week is a light week. Sunday we finished up her clip and she is officially only hairy on face, legs, and a saddle patch on her back. She's very cute and you can see her little paint spots very clearly! Then Monday was another relaxed day involving a thorough washing of her tail and that's it. Tuesday was another day off, and today Mom and I each took a turn taking a nice relaxed ride. There's a derby coming up that I'm debating going to, and after that just some Pony Club lessons and clinics.

I know that her general stickiness over bigger fences *could* be her hocks, so don't think that we are ignoring that possibility. It seems unlikely given past indications, but we're thinking of doing radiographs of her hocks before I get thoroughly into next eventing season - not because we think there's anything wrong, but because it would be very nice to get a baseline on this super-sound 16something year old mare! Then we can know if Adequan might be a good idea, etc. My money's on her just being tired after a long week, though. The chiro is coming on Saturday, so I'm expecting that after an easy week and an adjustment she'll be good as new.

In other news, my stirrup pads, Nathe bit, and big bodyclipping blade arrived Monday (just in time for me to be done with bodyclipping round 1, of course). Can't wait to put those stirrup pads on my jumping saddle! I tried out the bit tonight. Nothing too conclusive as we were just moseying around, but she certainly didn't object. I'll have to try a dressage lesson in it to see what kind of connection we're going to get - I'm suspecting that the connection will be good but the lateral clarity might suffer a little since it's a straight bar mouthpiece? We'll see.

I hope you all are enjoying the last vestiges of warmish weather. Tonight was lovely at the barn and it was a perfect evening to just relax and enjoy the company of a great horse. It's nice to know that despite all our big competition goals, the constant minutiae of improving dressage and the hours of jumping, one of the best things to do is just go out there on a beautiful evening and spend time with a horse you love. It doesn't get much better than that.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Goals Check-In

The jumping lesson last night was a very interesting mix of good and bad. I've got video of a couple rounds, so I'll be sure to put that up soon. For one, it was HOT and MUGGY - McKinna was warm and almost damp when I unloaded her from the trailer, let alone started working. By the time we were done she actually had tracks down her legs where the sweat had run down. Gross.

She was just a bit sluggish, I think because of the heat, and I could tell she just didn't have as much gas in the tank as usual. So we skipped the usual flatwork, just w/t/c both directions and then straight into jumping, and we didn't jump as long as usual. We started by being completely unable to find a good distance. I couldn't get her to give me a good canter; it was too quick but not powerful, or too slow and still not powerful.

Eventually we got things figured out, I'm not sure how, and McKinna gave me a little more energy to work with. We did some coursework over fences that were pretty much all 3'+, including one vertical that was at least 3'3 and two portable XC fences Devin moved into her arena. I'm pleased to say that we got some beautiful work, including many more perfect distances than in the past. Even our not-so-perfect distances were better, thanks to me slowly learning how to ride properly! I think the lesson would have been even better if it wasn't so dang hot, but you work with what you have, and I was really pleased with McKinna for digging deep and giving me the energy and power we needed even though she was a bit tired. The entire lesson lasted maybe 40 minutes, but it was a good one. Afterward I hosed her down with cool water and she perked right up at the sight of a few sugar cubes.

I think I may make her clip a little bigger tonight to prepare for XC schooling tomorrow. It's supposed to be in the 70s. I think I'll take it higher on her neck and maybe zip most of the long hair off her butt too. The other nice thing is that we're starting around 10 tomorrow, and it's been quite cool in the mornings before heating up in the afternoon - so hopefully we'll avoid the worst of the heat.

On another note, considering it's, um, October, and we're only three months away from the new year...what do you say we check in on the goals?

For your reviewing pleasure, here they are:

1. Pass C-2 rating in Pony Club
2. Master Novice-level eventing
2b. Begin to school some Training-level eventing
3. Clean tack consistently
4. Get a dressage saddle that fits Pandora and me
5. Kill the Judge Stand Monster for Pandora
6. Stick to a fitness schedule for myself
7. Take monthly progress reports

So - number one is ACHIEVED. I passed my C-2 back in May. The Horse Management stuff was a breeze, and McKinna cheerfully skipped around a light XC course despite the fact that she hadn't done any XC since the previous year. Good pony. The take-away message: we need to be able to establish relaxation, free forward movement, and connection more consistently for the next rating. Gridwork was great.

Second: master Novice-level eventing. In hindsight, 'master' isn't the best word, but it's the best I could think of. What I meant was, "feel like we can go out and ride a tough Novice event successfully, with a solid performance in each round that I can feel good about." You can see that 'master' fits a lot better in a list! Ultimately, I think we've achieved this goal. It's not about the scores, though we were doing great at Inavale until our untimely demise by piano. It's about feeling like we could go out and tackle any Novice event and have a good, solid performance in all three phases. The fences, combinations, and questions look friendly and easy to me. The dressage test is completely within our current abilities.

So, I'm calling that one passed.

Goal 2b, begin to school some Training stuff, is definitely in progress. I'm not going to call it finished yet, though. In our dressage lessons, we have slowly but steadily begun to work on leg yield, shoulders-in, more connection at all gaits, and other elements that will come into play at Training level. In my jumping lessons we've begun to push the height, so that now the majority of the fences are set at 3' and we're starting to work with some stuff in the 3'3 range. I haven't had a chance to school very much Training-level XC, but I did a few Training fences and the coffin complex at Inavale at the camp in May, and tomorrow I plan to school a lot of Training questions. So it's safe to say that this goal is well under way.

Goal 3 - fail! I have not been cleaning my tack with any sort of consistency, unless you count really good cleaning right before rallies or shows (which I don't count). So, to get back on track, I'm going to bring a sponge out to the barn. If I can just wipe my stuff off with a damp sponge after every ride with the occasional deeper cleaning and conditioning, I'll be willing to declare victory.

Goal 4 - was achieved! Somewhere along the line I found a Thornhill Pro Trainer dressage saddle that fit her beautifully. It was a pleasure to set that saddle on her back every day. Actually, my TOTD jumping saddle fit her spectacularly too. I sold both of the saddles with her. I was sad to see them go - I like those saddles! But I'd rather she has stuff that fits her.

Goal 5 is not really applicable anymore, since I sold Pandora in early May. I don't think I fully accomplished it by the time I sold her, but I never really had a chance to test it! I will say that her dressage progressed by leaps and bounds, and I think I had enough improvement in my control that the JSM would have been greatly reduced. So, I guess the jury's out on this goal.

Goal 6, stick to a fitness schedule for myself: another spectacular fail. I really haven't done anything. I'm fairly fit because I walk around a lot and I work hard in my lessons, but come on. So, I've weaseled workouts into my regular routine this term and I'm determined to get something done at least 3 days a week. Tuesdays I'll do strength training at home; Wednesday, Thursday, and/or Friday are all days I plan to get to the UO's rec center and play with some cardio machines. And the rock wall. I'll let you know how this one goes...I tend to have so much going on in my life that I let this one slip, but I'd really like to do SOMETHING. If I can consistently work out twice a week, I'm willing to call this goal accomplished.

Goal 7, take monthly progress reports - well. Considering this is the first goals check-in, I think that one is also a fail ;) However, I've been keeping you guys updated on our training progress, so it's not entirely an unmet goal. I don't know if I like this goal anymore, so I may not try to accomplish it between now and January.

So there you have it - an updated goals list! Trust me, my little brain is already chipping away at my goal list for next year. It'll be a good one...
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