Wednesday, July 19, 2017

7/16/2017 - Schooling Show... at Third Level!

I had an epic weekend planned this past weekend- riding 3-1 at two schooling shows in a row as practice for two days of recognized showing! The Saturday show was with a trainer I know to be fairly generous in her scoring (I believe she is practicing judging to enter to L program, but I think she is also missing 3rd level scores to enter the program), and I decided to go to that show as a confidence boost. The Sunday show usually utilizes L grads or r judges, so I figured I could get my confidence boost, then a more critical eye on me the following day.

Sadly things did not go as planned- due to the recent rain and I'm guessing some lingering footing problems, my easy Saturday show was cancelled and rescheduled for August (I need to email to get my check back from them though- I can't go in August). It worked out for the best though- I was able to do my barn work as scheduled, ride, clean tack/pack trailer, doing evening feed, wash and braid Penn in a more leisurely fashion.

Funnily enough, when I got my ride time for Sunday's show, the judge was the one I was supposed to see the day before! Small world. I'm glad I wasn't riding for her twice in one weekend though, especially at two different locations! I don't mind the confidence boost though!

All scrubbed and braided.
Maybe Penn's rabicano coloring is coming in a bit stronger? He looks like someone missed dying some of his roots!
Mikey had a section of white hair too, almost in this exact spot.

My mom was supposed to come with me, but some family things came up that made it impossible. I messaged one of the girls at the barn (T) who has been a groom before and lives close to the show to ask her if she'd meet me there so I wasn't showing alone, and I'd buy her lunch and then read some tests for her once we got back to the farm. She agreed, so I was back in action to not be showing completely by myself.

I had a 9:07am ride time, so my 4am wake up Sunday morning was rather rude! It was weird to do all my pre-departure things completely by myself. It was actually cold Sunday morning- 60ish degrees with a chill in the air from the humidity.

Who knew mid-July at 6:30am would be cool enough to trailer in the BOT mesh sheet?

For once, I arrived precisely when I wanted to! I usually end up arriving later because I'll leave 10-15 later than I wanted to and I just drive slowly with the trailer. I was good that morning- pulled out at 6:30 on the button, and arrived at 7:30.

I found my stall and took a few things over, and when I got back to the trailer, T had arrived and was ready to help take the rest of the stuff over to the stall. Between the two of us, it took two trips and then we were basically waiting. I hand grazed Penn while we watched the first couple horses go and killed time.

I wanted to be on at 8:47 (20 minutes before ride time). T was incredible- I have never had a helper who has been a paid groom before (I am usually the paid groom, so I manage myself at shows pretty well generally). I helped saddle Penn and picked his feet out, but she did basically everything else. Brushed him, fluffed his tail, used a damp sponge to get the dust off his face and braids. She bridled him, tightened his girth, and still managed to watch me put on my hair net and tell me to tuck in the wispy hairs at my neck! I applied some lederbalsam to my saddle flaps so my boots wouldn't squeak, then she grabbed a rag to wipe my boots down at warm up, and we were off!

Penn was... very sluggish in warm up. Relaxed, but lazy. He did everything I wanted, but I had to continually remind him not to lay on my hands. I did some of the shoulder fore/renvers prep for a single flying change right to left. It was late and leapy, but I was having trouble keeping him up. I opted not to do too much more since he seemed pretty low energy already.

I had a moment before I went in the ring where I thought about Mikey. This show was just a few days shy of two years since Mikey's last trip down centerline at 3-1 and 3-2. I asked Mikey to let Penn channel his inner TB in his medium and extended canters. Basically, Mikey was not forgotten on this day and I almost went into the ring in tears.

However, on to the test! I did a few turn on the haunches in the main ring since I forgot to do them in warm up, but then I just walked around until the judge was ready for me. I always feel like I should do more, but I'm always at such risk of doing my best work in the warm up.

I thought this test felt drunk. I did a bit too much mitigating and not enough riding for points to truly make me happy:
  • The trot lateral work left was sticky, the right was better (and I forgot to start the second SI promptly!). These are the stupidest half passes on the planet... they are so shallow. Of course they're going to get comments of 'needs more bend'... It's so hard to only move sideways 10m while moving forward 36m. That barely requires bend! GP Trainer's tip of keeping the shoulder on the line really helped here- his haunches were close to leading on the half pass left, but focusing on keeping the line instead of pushing the haunches over really really helped on these excessively shallow lines.
  • I was pleased with his medium trot, even if it was a bit quick... because it's still BETTER!
Not great, but better!
  • The halt was awesome... and the rein back is broken. He used to do diagonal pairs nicely, and now we're back to walking backwards.
  • I pushed him out of the extended walk since I thought he didn't have enough overstep. My bad.
  • Turn on the haunches are still sticky for us, I didn't think they earned the scores we were given.
  • I was happy with his medium canter- it's so much bigger than before!
  • 10m circle right was ok, the judge thought it was small, but we got totally lost when I tried to prepare for the change and Penn was ready to give it immediately off the circle, but the text calls for it after crossing centerline... which resulted in a wackadoodle leaping half pass change, haha.
#weeeeee #miscommunication
  • I was happy with the extended canter, but I could feel it going downhill instead of up. Nothing to be done about that at this point though.
He just looks so strong! And bulky. And grown up. Who is this horse?!
  • The 10m left circle was where I thought he'd fizzle out, which he did. I lost what little impulsion I had and he broke... I immediately thought, "Oh shit, how am I going to get a flying change in a few strides?" I put him back together as quickly as possible and began setting him up for the change... which ended up clean! Leapy, but clean.
I am honestly surprised this happened with the break so close. #MakeItWork
  • The extended trot leaves something to be desired, but it's still better than it was a month ago and I liked the feeling he gave me when we got on the line- he was like, "I'M GOING!"
He was already fizzling out by this point on the line, but I think he just looks pretty.
  • Maybe it was the better effort on the diagonal, but I asked him to collect and he almost quit on me, then I asked him to turn up centerline, and he was 'disinclined to acquiesce to my request.' This is now the second or third time this year that he's said f-off at the final centerline. Each time the judge never seems to catch it and mark it down, but I've got red alert going through my head because his centerlines are our score boosters and if we blow those, I won't have an offset for a weak movement (or a break from the canter).

I chatted with the judge after the test and got the feeling she didn't have much advice or whatever to give me- she herself is struggling at 3rd level (I've seen her around attempting to finish her bronze and I looked her up on USDF Score Check). She gave me a hand toss up and "Good luck!" at the end of our conversation, so I really had zero clue if she thought it was horrible or alright. She covered the general stuff:
  • "Wow, a lot of things happened quickly in that!" (I couldn't tell if she meant I hurried through it or the test just kept throwing punches or she's not familiar enough with tests of this level and couldn't keep up)
  • Penn needs better elasticity and uphill balance (I was struggling to get forward out of him... he was SUPER chill, to the point of detriment)
  • I could have added more angle to the shoulder in (I am very conscious of NOT putting him on like, 20 tracks lol so I took this as a good thing)
  • Keep working on the flying changes (I expected this of course)

When I got my test back, it looked like the judge and scorer got a bit lost in it, and there were 3 different pen styles in the writing- one for the scribe, one for the judge, and one for the scorer... only the judge's pen also showed up for both of my flying changes scores and comments as well as a few others towards the end of the test... meaning she didn't score them as they were happening, she scored them AFTER she spoke with me. Whatever, it is a schooling show, and she's out there practicing too.

Best comment ever. I may have laughed at Penn for breaking to trot in the extended walk...
Almost a Third Level baby horse! 62.727%!
And of course we won the class, you know, 'big fish small pond' means you're the only one in 3-1.

When I picked up my test from the office, the organizer was like, "OMG, he's looking so good! And I'm not a dressage person, but it seems like he's really flying up through the levels?" I was like "Yes, I just want to finish my bronze and then we're going to spend the next year working at second and third, until he's really comfortable."

That really highlights how far he's come- August 2015 he scored 59 and 62 at Intro A and B, respectively. Here in July 2017 and he's pulled a 62 at 3-1, with somewhat functional changes (even if they're not pretty).

This week is pretty quiet because we're gearing up to do 3-1 this upcoming weekend at a recognized show. I was hoping for a better run through at this show, but I did get a good feel of where we're going to struggle. I was hoping for a score between 62 and 64 so that when I go to the recognized stuff, I would still be ok when the leniency points are removed. I'm happy with the 62.727%, but this judge is usually quite generous (more than an L grad would be), so I'm a bit nervous about how this test would have scored in the eyes of an S judge.

We will just have to do the best we can this weekend! I certainly can't put any more training into it (except maybe working on the TOH, which I did do yesterday). I'll review the rein back, TOH, and trot work today, and do some generic 10m canter circles each direction without mixing in changes.

I think I may have to take some of Penn's omeprazole for my own nerves this weekend!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

7/1-2/2017: GP Trainer Comes to Town

**We're still looking into what's wrong with Penn- we think we've pinpointed it but we're waiting for bloodwork to come back. Until then, I'm going to post other stuff.**

Like cats eating gnomes.

The last few weeks of June were a whirlwind of prep- GP Trainer was coming to our barn to teach a 2-day clinic and was staying at my house instead of a hotel. Husband and I took care of all of the outside stuff that we'd been meaning to do: cut new flower bed lines to make it easier for him to mow, pull weeds, put down mulch.

Fresh flower bed lines and mowed grass!

My house finally got the spring cleaning it deserved too- Mom came over and between the two of us, we washed, scrubbed, wiped, and dusted EVERYTHING the day before GP Trainer arrived. I clean sporadically (I spend too much time at the barn), and so everything in the house needed to be freshly cleaned. I was just disappointed that two of the projects we started earlier weren't done: the living room update (my house has good bones and 50s style), and the gutters that were damaged by the tree that fell on the house (the contractor will be here end of July/beginning of August to put all new gutters on the whole house).

BO got the farm ready- endless mowing and more sand for the indoor. OMG the indoor is so nice now! They spent an entire day or two dragging it though- there's some lingering deep spots near X, but for the most part the footing is LOVELY!

I was first up to ride on Saturday. GP Trainer confirmed that we were all qualified for Championships (check), then asked what the plan was for the rest of the year. I said I had been playing with Penn's changes, and that I'd really like to finish my bronze this year. I stressed that I only wanted to ride 3-1 since I know his canter is not really up to par for canter half pass. She actually agreed we could do that! And there would be plenty of time to get him put back together for first level championships in September, so now is a good time. I told her I was planning on trying it at two local schooling shows before recognized- the one has a very generous judge (to give me some confidence) and the other will give me a more realistic view on where he's at.

We warmed up and she commented on how much stronger he looked than he did in May. I always like hearing those comments. I try so hard to do my homework, and every time I see her she's always saying how much further along he is.

We did more of the same work we've done in the past- reviewing the laterals and me trying not to throw him into them, using 10m canter circles to find a slow collected canter, and then we got into some new territory- flying changes! It came with the disclaimer of "He's not quite ready, but if you're going to try them, you may as well encourage them to be clean eventually." Haha!

To start (this is almost direct, word for word from the video), and explanation of the exercise and the reasoning:
  • Collected canter from our circle work (20m circle with 10m circles at the points)
  • Ride shoulder fore at the canter (no crazy angle) down the long wall, then change it to the idea of renvers. Shoulders to the inside, but haunches and nose looking out.
  • Sliding the inside leg back to achieve this, which is very similar to the cue for a flying change. If he offers any part of a change, good bad or ugly, no problem. Walk, reorganize, canter again.
  • The challenge to the changes is that the horse has to be incredibly itchy to change and incredibly level, all at the same time. We want to tease him, just a little bit.
  • Renvers positioning makes it easier for him to change clean, but he also has to be patient.

Then directions in the work:
  • Slide the inside leg back, allow with the inside hand.
  • No swinging my body in, stay in the middle of him.
  • Don't let the canter change!
  • Keep the haunches on the same line as they were in shoulder fore (I kept putting him on a steeper angle after thinking renvers).
  • Very little angle! We're talking inches here, not feet.
  • Eventually be able to apply a half halt to hock him back while in renvers, and be able to let go and let him carry himself.

To do the flying changes:
  • Bring him onto the diagonal in the idea of renvers.
  • Big half halt, ask, touch with stick if needed.

The right to left change ended up a bit "superman"-like. Penn wants to lurch and leap through the change, so GP Trainer directed to make it quite up and down. Obviously that's not the final end result we want, but he has to learn not to lurch through them first. We took a short break and then went to the left with the shoulder-fore to renvers feeling. I cut out some of the good lateral practice work in the below video, only because Penn really needed a break and I was editing on my phone and it cut the video to 2:24 minutes from like 6 min, lol.

GP Trainer told me a while ago that the more difficult flying change, pirouette, etc would end up being the easier one in the end. The left to right has always been more difficult (I think because he struggles with the organization of the left lead), and yet since this lesson, the left has proven to be the quieter change. Still more difficult to get, but quieter.

Saturday night we had a grill and BBQ party featuring the farm's organic black pasture hog in burger, sausage, and pulled pork form. One of the highlight foods were the "adult fruit" aka apples and watermelon soaked in I believe vodka and tequila respectively. The party was a lot of fun! GP Trainer and I peaced out a bit early though- she'd been up for a long time and we had to be up early the next day to come back, and it's a 40 min drive back to my house.

I'd share the group pics we got took, but kids under 18 are front and center and I don't want to basically feature them on a blog. Just imagine like 20 people sitting down one very long table while raising red solo cups and smiling their heads off.

My lesson Sunday was a lot of the same trot and canter work from the day before, sans changes, and very similar to videos I've already shared. We quickly found that Penn was running out of gas, which was a reason we didn't touch the changes at all. All of the sit work from Saturday showed on Sunday and he was pretty tired. All the horses that did day one were pretty tired on day two!

We took it easy on him and quit a little early, and I took him for a walk on the trail as a reward. He almost stepped on a turkey hen hiding in the brush though. It blasted out from under him and he was rightly surprised. He was so tired though, he barely hopped away!

The clinic was filled to the brim- 10 rides each day! I watched them all (or all that I could since it was hard for me to watch rides directly before and after my own lessons), while running and fetching GP Trainer anything she needed. A common theme for all of the lessons on both days were working from the inside leg to the outside rein, but everyone had improved by the end of their 45 minutes.

So tired!

GP Trainer got an overwhelmingly positive response, with auditors and riders alike asking, "When is she coming back?" So I'm pleased to announce she'll be back Dec 2-3 for some winter shenanigans! Of course I'll see her before then, but it will be nice to get a tune up at home before she leaves for Florida!

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

"Obviously it calls for some panic"

Went to the farm last night to ride... only to find Penn was NQR. Not lame, but not perfect. He was short ever so slightly on his right front, but it felt like he had a flat tire when I trotted him around.

First thought? "Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit. I have him entered at 3-1 at two schooling shows this weekend, and then two recognized shows next weekend."

One of the farriers was out, so I pulled his tack and asked her to hoof test both front feet. He reacted ever so slightly to the right front toe, but she said not to worry about it because she had to press extremely hard to get a reaction, so she doubts it's an abscess.

Shouldn't have to do this. Hopefully.

Yay? An abscess would be simple though.

She thought it's probably because his toes are nice and long, and the right is a bit longer than the left. Since I ask so much of him, that length makes a huge difference in his movement.

He's scheduled to be reset today anyway. He really should could have been reset last Wednesday... I thought he would be ok to do 5 weeks this time- we did last time at 6 weeks, except he really could have been done at 5. One day I will learn to just call the farrier and ask if he can come out sooner. Apparently we're going to try changing his cycle to 4 weeks!

The same farrier that tested him also does this pulse treatment thing (I'll have more details later). They just lowered their rates for it (I could not pay the $200 a session), so in addition to a manicure today, he's getting a session with the pulse machine, lol.

He was adjusted by his super chiropractor the last week of June. I was warned he may be quite sore after - the base of his neck was a mess and Penn almost laid down because of the pressure it took to make it right. Penn moved really well several days later (he got 2 days off after because I needed to clean and he needed extra rest). I scheduled him to see the pulsing machine this week and next, because you know, horse shows and third level. Goodbye money.

Hopefully between a trim and shoe reset, body work, and rest (he was going to get rest and extremely light rides anyway after yesterday because his schedule is so heavy), he'll be back in tip top shape! We can skip the schooling shows if need be, but I don't want to miss the recognized!

No prep is the way to move up to third... right?

Monday, July 10, 2017


Before I write about GP Trainer's visit (which was a total blast, and totally exhausting), we've got some low key fun stuff going on in between training.

Like BABY GOATS!!!!!! The farm has 4 baby goats on the ground (two sets of twins) and at least two more babies on the way soon! The 4 you can see here were born on July 4th (foreground) and July 5th (background).

National Pony Cup - Small Horse Division

So this was some super exciting news I found out- National Pony Cup has Small Horse awards! You have to get your small horse measured by a vet and fill out a form and pay the fees, but that's it! All of the scores you earn in that competition year count, so you don't have to get the form in before you show. Penn isn't registered anywhere, so I thought this would be fun to do en lieu of a breed registration. They add "degrees of difficulty" to the percentage score (the number of percentage points depends on the test ridden), and then average all of your scores at each level.

Part of getting him registered for this was to get him officially measured. He was originally supposed to be 16.2 (per his breeder) as a 6 year old, but the sale barn called me when he arrived and said he's more like 15.3. When he came home, my vet measured him at 15.1 with a tape (which was one week later). I measured him at 15.2 3/4 at the wither and 15.3 at the rump with the barn's stick sometime between Dec 2015 and Feb 2016. So basically we had no idea how tall he was- no one could agree. It didn't matter, I showed him as 15.3 and that's the end of it.

Well, the vet measured him at 16.0- 162.5cm officially. He's allowed to be up to 163cm with shoes for the Small Horse Division. Whew, he barely made it! I thought she was crazy though, there's no way he was 16 hands.

Well, Austen was right when she told me back in May that I should stick him again because she thought he grew.

We pulled out the barn's stick over the weekend and measured him again... 15.3 3/4 at the shoulder and 16 at the rump. Slightly downhill, but he's grown about an inch in the last year. He grew an inch as a 7 year old. I mean, part of me is jumping for joy ("He grew!") and then the other part of me was like, "Oh shit, he grew!" I'm glad he doesn't need to be measured for Pony Cup again though- his form is considered final since he's 8 this year. Growing explains some of the gait problems he's had in the last year too (aside from just a strength issue).

Have you ever seen a boar get a belly rub? I have!
And when Penn spooks the boar, I totally get it now.

New Experiences - Riding Bareback!

I also rode him bareback for the first time this past weekend! I've been putting it off since a) I rarely rode Mikey bareback because spine and shark fin withers, b) I haven't done any serious bareback work since leasing my QH Jasmine and that lease ended in 2004, and c) Penn wigged about me not riding with tall boots- full leg contact was a bit much. How was he going to deal with complete contact? But I want to ride Penn in GP Trainer's swimming pond when M and I go back in a couple weeks, so I have to be able to ride bareback, haha!

I used to be much more confident riding bareback. And bridleless.
Oh to be young and indestructible again!

Penn stood like a champ while I scrambled on. A friend stood by his head to make sure he didn't move (the transition from block to back is the one place I thought he'd have a good chance of dumping me), but he just stood and let me scramble. We walked and trotted, and it was fun as soon as I pulled myself out of the fetal position, lol. The first time I asked him to trot he was like, you don't really mean that... and then broke into this western pleasure jog, lol. Maybe next time I'll canter. I have to learn to sit up again though- I could feel I was tipped forward and afraid to sit on him.

We went for a little trail ride with M and her mare when she was done with ring work. Next time, I'm using my 5 point with my bareback pad! It immediately slipped way back on the first hill... Penn was really super on the trail as well! He watched his own feet and took everything super easy- no power walking. There's a step mucky section that he usually walks a bit quick through... he sat down and took teeny tiny western pleasure steps down it. I have to say, he usually trips a couple times when we trail ride... he didn't trip once. Someone had to watch his own balance because I couldn't watch it for him!

Basically I need to practice bareback a lot more. It's much easier than no stirrup work (so much easier to get my leg around him). It'll be fun now that I know Penn will take care of me a bit! It seems we both need it, lol!

Bareback ride with sleepy ears! Such a good boy.

We've had a fun low key week! Good thing too, we're busy for the next 3 weekends (then I'm busy on the 4th weekend!). I think I'll use bareback and trail rides during the week as something low key that we can do to chill.

Monday, July 3, 2017

6/17/2017 - The Unexpected Lesson

I meant to get this posted in June, but GP Trainer came to the farm for a clinic on July 1/2, and stayed at my house instead of a hotel (save money on those lessons yo!), so I was obnoxiously cleaning the house, inside and out, during the week I wanted to get this posted.

Since the last horse show, I set two pseudo-goals: get the changes more confirmed (aka get at least a late change every time) and make our medium gaits better. This was in anticipation of... riding 3-1 at a schooling show July 16, and a recognized show July 22-23. Finally finish that bronze, you know?

So I've been cracking away at it. Working on straightness to build engagement. Keeping the changes low key. Things had been going ok. Until they weren't.

Foamy mouth with gross bit sucking noises = good

I had been working on the changes, and he was giving me something every time I asked on the short diagonal (the way it is in 3-1), so I was happy. Until he started hopping through the right to left change. NBD I thought, he's a green horse. Green horses sometimes hop. Check the connection, move on. He hopped half the time, changed the other half. Until he started outright bucking. Then the bucking got bigger. I was not about to pop him with the whip over it- I could tell his response would be to retaliate, not to take his spanking and move on. I knew something was wrong training-wise, I didn't know what (am I setting him up wrong? trapping him? holding him back? is he just fucking sassy? what combo of all of the above?), and I knew if I wanted to meet my goal of trying 3-1, I needed to work it out ASAP. I needed HELP.

So I took stock of who I had available to me: GP Trainer wasn't an option, she's too far away to help without video, of which I had none (and she doesn't exactly approve of me working on the changes right now, which is pretty valid considering Penn is a barely-second level horse, but we might be getting closer!). Cowboy Dressage Trainer was actually one of my top choices, but I didn't think she would approve of working on it either. She'd sidetrack into something else we needed to work on (which I know wouldn't be all bad to do either). I didn't want to ask Event Trainer since I haven't really talked to her in ages. BO's daughter mentioned Dressage Trainer was going to be out the next morning, and had a lot of experience with teaching flying changes since her PSG horse put her through the flying change ringer (he did not take to flying changes well at all), and she's brought a bunch of horses through successfully to 3rd and 4th. I decided to give Dressage Trainer a whirl: she has a lot of experience and I could get help immediately.

Apparently I made Dressage Trainer's day when BO texted her to ask if she'd shuffle her schedule a small bit so I could have a lesson. She said that's fine, and was thrilled to teach me. Well that's exciting! I know she has a bunch of lower level students (First and below), and I know trainers get excited to work with students who know, and can do, more.

4 white standards = markers to count strides between on long sides and diagonals, in trot and canter.
Trying to get a handle on the mediums! I crunched some interesting numbers to go with these, I might make that into a post.
This work on Friday was MUCH more acceptable than his flying change work.

I told her up front when we started that my end goal for the moment was to squeak out two 60s in 3-1 in July and finally finish my bronze... that it has been on hold now for 3 years and I'd really like to finish it because we are SO CLOSE. She laughed and said ok. I told her the trot work is all good, except the mediums need to be bigger, but I'm working on it and they're getting better. I was also working on the flying changes, and usually getting something when I asked, but he's started bucking through the one change, and it's getting worse.

She said alright, let's warm up the trot, and go straight to the changes. She said the changes are a change in bend behind the saddle (which ensures the hind end keeps up in the change), so our warm up work focused on lateral work to get that part of his back moving. She also didn't want to work the changes on the diagonal- she thought that might not be a good way to approach them right now.

She had me mess around a bit with going forward and coming back on a 25ish-m circle- short bouts of medium trot, then collect, do another medium, collect, change directions, medium, collect. It was really good- his medium trot got better immediately and within a couple go/collect rounds, DT was pleased with the medium he was offering and said that's plenty of reach. Wahoo, we'll keep working on those so maybe I can have a medium and a medium + 1 (aka not an extended but hey look, this medium is a hair bigger!)

She then had me work SI and haunches in (HI). She had me do both on the 20m circle, but then when I'd go "straight" on the circle, ask for a short bit of medium trot. Repeat. Then we took it down the wall. SI down the wall. Make the trot bigger in SI. Smaller again. Bigger again. Smaller again. Straight. Turn to the short side, medium trot. Collect, turn the corner, SI again. Repeat. Then we did the same with the HI. All the while, she wanted a more uphill trot. It was super interesting work, and it helped me cement the new feeling of core activity/seat engagement that I found I needed at the last show to get a better uphill trot.

Something she continually reminded me of in the SI was to keep my outside hand down, especially tracking left because Penn wants to tilt his head in that direction. Keeping my outside hand down really helped with fighting the tilt, and steadied him a lot better. I imagine that's because it helped me keep him connected to my elbows, instead of breaking the connection at the wrist.

All of the go forward/come back within straight and the lateral work was to show me the elasticity and suppleness Penn needed in that kind of work. How he needs to be that adjustable, all the time, no matter where I put him. It was super cool, I really wish I had video of it (of course there was no one on hand to take video for me!). I'm super excited to give it a whirl on my own though.

New fly clothes. This is a 72", BTW. Penn's regular clothes? 75-78".
He was hulking out of his fly sheet from last year, and basically ripped the shoulders out of it.
I may have picked this one because its color was "Illusion Blue" and well, Penn is Illuczion.

We took a break, then moved on to the canter right. The very first thing she said was make the canter much more uphill. He can't buck through the changes if his poll is up. She phrased it as, "Sit on his hind end." I don't know why, but that clicked for me. I know I've heard it before. I think it goes hand in hand with MF telling me to sit against his outside hind while I stretched him down to prevent him from speeding up. It was super easy for me to engage my seat in a way that encouraged him to be more uphill and collect, but without closing any of the front doors.

We did the same thing: medium canter on the 20m circle for no more than a quarter of the circle, collect, medium, collect, medium, collect. I had warned her before we cantered that we struggled with the HI at the canter last time I tried it, he would try and simply couldn't hold it very long. After we worked medium/collect, she had me work SI, straight and medium, collect and SI, straight and medium, collect and HI (holding the HI as long we we could, but no more than a quarter circle), straight and medium. Holding the laterals on the circle for no more than a quarter was enough to give Penn something to do, but release him before he got flustered. As we progressed, the medium canter found that awesome shoulder pop-and-reach motion, and it was effortless. Combining the "sit on his hind end" feeling into asking for the transition med-col worked really well too- no more squeezing him to death with him thighs (which didn't work well, let's face it). Just sit against him and he has to collect. Durrrrrrrrr. It works for both working to collected AND medium to working? Who knew?!

Anyway, down the long wall: Go to SI for half of it, medium out of it. Collect and turn the corner and get a little more forward and uphill going again. SI down the first half of the long wall, medium out, collect, turn, find uphill again. She had me change one of the SI to a renvers-like change and seemed pleased that it was relatively easy for him. Next was substituting HI for SI, being careful not to trap him in it (aka medium out).

Then she had me tear drop back around to the other direction, but maintain the counter canter. We balanced the counter canter- it mostly involved me continuing to remind him to stay uphill and compressed and to keep his balance. Then she had me turn down a quarterline and leg yield out to the wall- left leg with every stride, then hit the wall and right leg, flying change. He did a quiet and clean flying change. Walk, make a big fuss over him.

Due to the recent heatwave, Penn has finally learned fans are his friend.

We did the same to the left after a good rest- he could hold the HI!!! I was amazed. He clearly didn't have the same endurance to the left as the right (we also started with the easier change), but she rather liked his left lead better than his right. I rode it much better because I had to, which might be part of it. She got after me to keep after his hind legs, especially the right hind. She said something similar to what GP Trainer has said- his hind end gets slow this direction (GP Trainer has phrased it as he gets scrambly). I need to keep after his hind legs and make them keep up and slow the front end down (something else GP Trainer has told me).

Partway through the left lead work (while we were still tracking left), she had me introduce the concept of half steps to him- when I was putting him together to walk-canter, he just was not engaging his hind end. She had me half halt and basically jazz him up, tapping a couple times with the whip. I got a, "Finally! He's bending his hocks!" Haha. He absolutely leapt off the ground into the canter, which was pretty cool. It was uphill from the start. Gotta figure out how to channel that better.

The left was really hard for him (and me). It took a couple tries through the quarterline to wall leg yield to get the first left to right change. She had me really get after his right hind in the leg yield and then apply the same pressure with the new outside leg for the change cue. This was super hard for me- I didn't want to over cue him, and I was letting him expand his frame in the last few strides before the change. We got a couple that way- then she had me set it up with a 20m circle, compress, straight, cue new lead onto the adjoining 20m circle. She said the left to right wasn't late, per se. It was late to be sure, but he would change the front and change the hinds a half stride late- like a funny hitch.

One of the times he broke in counter canter while on the left lead, I tried picking up the counter canter directly, like I normally do. We hit the straight away as I cued, he picked up the left lead, went two strides, and did a perfect flying change to the inside right lead. DT laughed, I laughed, I pulled him up and gave him a rest and a pat while we giggled. Sneaky horse. He looked super proud of himself too for being so clever. One might even say, smug. Lol

Picture courtesy of BO- he took a nap Saturday afternoon after that lesson!

She said overall he wants to expand his frame and pull his poll down through the flying changes (which then lets him buck), and I need to keep him up and compressed. That's why she doesn't want him doing them off of long approaches like diagonals right now- it's too much time for him to lengthen his frame and drag me forward out of my seat.

This lesson stressed being able to make him laterally supple and elastic (get that back bending for the changes), and making him longitudinally supple and elastic (so I can keep him compressed and up through the changes). DT apologized for making the lateral work so mentally taxing and quick-coming, but she said she's trying to cover a lot of ground in a short time. I told her, "No problem- I brought you a long list!" In fact it was great the way she structured it. I'm super excited to try this all on my own. I won't hit the changes every time, but I can work those lateral moves a bunch.

We'll see how the next few weeks shake out, but I might try to ride with DT again before our July debut. I'm a bit nervous about riding 3rd- the last time we tried 3-1 it was not good (53%), and I feel like I'm rushing Penn like I did Mikey (Great, we got recognized scores at second! Move on to third!). But I think Penn's quality of work and connection is much better than Mikey's, and Mikey averaged 55% at third. I think of 3-1 as 'second level with flying changes' because it's SI, trot half pass, medium/extended trots, medium/extended canters, flying changes. I donno, we'll see. It'll be an interesting experiment.