Rides This Week

The weather is finally cooperating around here so hopefully summer Eli is here to stay for a while. It might be time to break out the roller ball spurs! But only for flat work.

So windy. But characteristically, Eli didn’t seem to mind.


Lovely evening, and I tracked this ride with Equilab. I got in more time at the canter, but apparently that means less trot?

I seem to have a 25-minute clock in my head for rides and I should push it to 30. Plenty of transitions, though. Honestly, how does a ride without many transitions even work? I don’t know. This is a pretty good visual representation of how we can walk-to-canter but still struggle with canter-to-walk.


Too pretty to work. Eli and I strolled around the wildflowers at sunset.

Eli is asking me to take his bridle off so he can graze

Eli rode SO WELL last night. I jumped him a little bit, not knowing whether we’ll be able to beat the weather Saturday. He seems to love it when I shove my hands at him and let him jump from a snug distance (provided I keep my shoulders back–it doesn’t work otherwise). Sometimes we get a little too snug because I ride right past the distance into an add step … maybe I should just, ya know, do nothing. That seems to work best.

He got new shoes on Thursday, too, and moved out very well with this new setting. I am also noticing the benefits of copper-coated nails — nail holes definitely stay tighter (and of course copper has some anti-microbial properties but Eli doesn’t seem prone to thrush). We’ll stick to flat work again tonight and MAYBE I will FINALLY get an actual Saturday lesson with my trainer in what seems like ages because I guess Saturday is Crap Weather Day.

Two Hats

I know many readers may not be following closely, but just in case …

I have boarded horses at the same barn for a long time. I hope to continue to board horses there for a while — as long as I have horses, I don’t want to board anywhere else, really. But this barn has a new owner now.

From my perspective, not much has changed. Eli still receives excellent care, and thoroughly enjoys the new owner’s feeding program, too. I still ride with my trainer. I still feel very much at home at the location. The new owner has gone to great lengths to accommodate all the clients, and the former owner most definitely deserves a leisurely retirement!

So you may see me wear my Kings Bridge baseball cap, but now you are just as likely to see me wearing my Hilltop baseball cap. I am very happy to call Hilltop Eli’s home!

High Winds

Eli schooled lightly but very well over fences on Friday evening. As it turned out, it was a good thing I jumped him then, because Saturday, while sunny and bright, was too windy to jump anything. I had trouble just trying to trot. We had sustained winds out of the north at 25-30mph with gusts to 50mph and greater. Eli and I wound up just strolling around in the wildflowers at a walk. He never seems to mind wind, although on Saturday he did have a bit of a snorting fit when we first started walking around, but with that much wind and dust and dry air I can hardly blame him for it.

portrait from patentlybay on Vimeo.

Sunday was a much nicer day and I spent the day working outside until 5 or so, then drove out to get Eli some grazing time.

The weekend was not a total waste — a good friend was in town on business and we went to Lamberts Sunday night. If you ever visit Austin, I definitely recommend checking out Lamberts–as long as you like meat. Don’t bother going if you don’t eat meat, though. I don’t think there would much on the menu for you.

And that’s just the bar menu, where this friend and I prefer to eat while there. There is a lot more meat on the full menu.

Hopefully this evening will be less windy and I can have a decent flat work session on Eli!

Still Not Cantering Enough

I tend to reward Eli very quickly when he gives me the canter I want. And that reward is walking.

Clearly, I am falling a few minutes short of how much we should be cantering.

But I don’t wear a watch. I have no idea why trotting doesn’t feel longer than the cantering but obviously it is.

So I think rather than timing myself, I am just going to canter for what feels like “too long” for me until “too long” feels just right. It might mean a more gradual build up to cantering enough, but I prefer than to being overtaxed.

Riding is Hard, but it’s not a Battle

Maybe let’s not even quite so much attack the jumps, either, Eli. (SGL Photo)

To make up for losing a Saturday to bad weather, I schooled with my trainer Wednesday afternoon. It. Was. Difficult. Eli and I warmed up fine, but we struggled with pretty much every part of the jumping portion. We had to regroup on the flat a few times in between fences. I felt frustrated at times, but also very happy with my horse when we did get what we were going for. There was a lot of circling and transitioning, and at one point I even said I was having a bad day! The wind wasn’t helping either — it was hard to hear my trainer sometimes.

But, never once did I see the struggle as something my horse was causing. Never once did I have thoughts assigning blame to my horse for things going wrong. Never once did I see the struggle as a battle between me and my horse. We may have been challenged by the deceptively simple the fences, but we were in it together.

Did I have to halt hard a few times? Yes. Did I have to pony-kick with my right leg once or twice? Yep. Did I make many, many mistakes? Abso-effing-lutely. Were Eli and I on the same page all the time? No … but we got there eventually. Isn’t that the whole point of a lesson? Learning from mistakes, correcting what isn’t desirable into what is? Achieving the goals for the day by the end, even if those goals seem simple? My trainer is teaching both me and Eli. I am working on NOT sitting two strides out from a fence. I am working on transitions with Eli to get him lighter in the bridle through the corners. Eli is as responsive as can be provided I ride him correctly. We still have light years to go until we can be consistent over a course of jumps in the hunter discipline. But we are getting there. If I stop sitting on him and just wait, he stops rubbing the rails. If I keep my hands forward, he carries us down the lines easily. If I use my right leg AT ALL he doesn’t drift. This is a lot of work and there are no short cuts. There is no bit that will make things easier and Eli lighter, and my hands most certainly fix nothing if I pull–pulling on a TB is pointless unless you are looking for heavy on the forehand. There is not a helmet that will endow my brain with timing. It is all practice, seat, leg, practice, leg, leg.

So peaceful as to allow birds to dine with him at his feed box.

But a battle? No. Eli is NOT my adversary; he is my partner. I can not understand when riders use language like “battle,” or “bad,” or “fight.” What exactly, are you fighting? Your horse? To get results? Think about what a battle is — conflict, violence, terror, death — is that what you want to experience while riding your horse, to get those things as results? Is that what you are experiencing when you’re riding your horse?

When I ride Eli, I am reinforcing the results I want by rewarding Eli: a cookie, a pat or scratch on the neck, a walk break on a long rein, dismounting after desirable behavior like getting a lead change without a thought … if he reacts in a way that I am not looking for, I question myself first, and usually find my answer. A horse and rider should be in harmony, a tΓͺte-Γ -tΓͺte in pursuit of a bigger jump, a more powerful medium trot, a gallop that feels like flying, or a consensus that today is a good day for eating grass and sitting in the sun. It means a lot of self-reflection on the part of the rider.

Riding means A LOT of self-reflection on the part of the rider.