VIP tickets!

I love Mary’s Tack and Feed. They are a gorgeous store, have great staff members and are really involved in their community. One way they are involved is they have almost weekly contests for swag. Last week, their contest was for two VIP tickets to Laura Grave’s master class and the freestyle afterward at Adequan West Coast Dressage Festival at Del Mar.

I won!

I’m not a dressage person. I think its the best building blocks you can give a horse for strengthening and preparation for everything else but I’m not interested in showing. However, its gorgeous and I love watching it anyway. Freestyles are so fun and the horses at that level are so impressive. And I don’t get to have lessons very often. Going to audit clinics is something I’m going to try to do in order to gain more information that I could potentially use when riding as a cost-efficient method of learning.

I invited Holly from my barn to go with me and she was excited as well. We met at the fairgrounds at 4pm and talked to the people out front. They directed me to a table within the VIP lounge to find the lady Mary’s had provided with my tickets. We got wristbands and a voucher for champagne for each of us. We got our flutes and stood at one of the small tables near the inside ring to watch the rides go. It was fun chatting and watching rides. I’m used to going to shows on my own since I didn’t really have many friends who enjoyed horses until recently so it was a unique experience.


We got the full VIP treatment and could wander around the lounge. I’m terrible with horse people’s faces but we saw Robert Dover and Laura Graves there. L. was there as well so we met up with her and she took a picture of us in front of the sign before we headed off to the VIP tables.


That was the best part. We got a course meal and got to eat it with a front row seat to the arena.

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I totally forgot to take pictures of the food but did get a picture of my dessert.


Laura instructed 3 rider pairs during dinner. There was a 6-year-old, a 14-year-old 4th level horse, and a 10-year-old that I can’t remember the level of. Prix-St-George or Grand Prix I think. I took notes and most of the notes come from the first horse as the rest were focused on pirouettes and such which Scarlet and I never will do.

Notes: (May or may not make sense without watching the master class. Be forewarned)

  • Don’t stay where it’s safe, you’ll never improve
  • Forward is always safe but you need to challenge with slow
  • almost leg yield in a turn to help w/spook
  • quick to make the correction, quicker to give the praise
  • push him to create contact when he comes back too much
  • you need both reins to work in each direction – helps with changes
  • don’t run through changes
  • exercise for pirouette: haunches in spiral in
  • have to be detail oriented
  • don’t be afraid of mistakes
  • don’t ride to cover up mistakes


Most of what I thought was useful was Laura’s attitude. She stressed that she didn’t want to ride for no mistakes. In fact, you need to push into the mistake areas because the horse needs to learn how to do those things correctly and without you riding to cover up his weaknesses. I would love to have more opportunities to audit her clinics as I can imagine the things she says about mindset being extremely helpful for me.

It was a lovely evening and I had so much fun spending time as a VIP surrounded by horses and horse people.

Lowering Expectations

Now, contrary to the general feeling of the title, this was actually a good thing for me. Since we’ve been having such issues while riding recently, I decided that I was going to lower my expectations for each ride. I was going to go out hoping to basically get around with minimal problems and then build back up to doing more when we have had more consistent rides.

Thursday, my goal was literally just to manage our warm up. My plan was to just get him to stay on the rail (ie not moving sideways away from the spooky nothingness) at w/t/c. If he spooked, we would circle until he stayed on the rail at the insistence of my leg. I decided that the looking at the spooky stuff wasn’t something I was going to fight that ride. I thought that narrowing down my focus on which things I was going to control would help.

It ended up taking around 45 minutes to just get the warm-up done but I wasn’t frustrated, which I considered a bonus. It wasn’t like Scarlet got no work done either. It just took that long till we got laps that I considered good. And sometimes that is just how it is going to go.

Friday, it started misting on my way out. I was already halfway there and decided that as long as it didn’t get heavier, I’d still try to ride at least a bit.

It didn’t get heavier so I rushed through tacking up and hopped on. The arena with lights had been drug and closed off so I lapped the barn twice at a walk. One of the turnout arenas opened up then and I trotted and cantered two laps each direction. Scarlet was obedient but definitely didn’t want to be out in the wet. He was distinctly reluctant to go forward. I called it good and rubbed him off. He wasn’t that wet, though he tried to convince me that he was the most miserable horse ever.

Saturday, I got out a bit later than I had planned and it was crazy windy. I wanted to do something fun while riding so I decided that if we could get through a quick warm up without too many problems, we’d hop over a couple of jumps. Scarlet was decent, though distracted by the wind and such. It wasn’t bad enough for me to think that he would be bad while jumping so I headed for a low crossrail to warm up a few jumps. We trotted over that one and another slightly higher crossrail a few times to get into the hang of things. He definitely perked up for that, trying to turbo trot around the arena to get to each jump. I then cantered over a higher cross rail. By that time, someone was in the arena adjusting some trot poles in the direction we were jumping. They weren’t anywhere near my path so I paid them no mind.

Scarlet did.

They were very interesting so he forgot to focus on the jump. We reached it and had no momentum. At all. He realized a jump was there and porpoised over it. It was extremely odd feeling and all I could think was “Well, I know you can jump better and higher than you ever give me the effort of doing…”. Since that jumping effort was entirely unsatisfying, we circled and jumped the crossrail again and again till we got a jump that was smoother. It took about four circles but we got it.

I finished the ride off with two jumps over a roughly 2 foot vertical and left it there. It was a short ride but I wanted to do something more fun for him and try to keep life interesting.

Lowering my expectations felt… odd when I considered doing it at first. He is an experienced horse and I’m an experienced rider. I should be able to expect and receive good behavior from him at all times. But he is a dramatic horse and sensitive. He very much feeds off of emotion and tension. Since we’d been having so many bad days, it was making me hate going out and I was starting my rides braced to fight. That’s not a good mindset for me to be in, for both our sakes. Sometimes, you have to let go of everything but the bare basics in order to eliminate things that are causing problems. I think, given that we have had a few good rides, that I can start adding one more thing I expect him to do while riding these next couple of rides. It shouldn’t take long before we are back to where we were. One step at a time.


I got out to ride Scarlet this Sunday while it was still light (I let myself sleep in so early afternoon instead of morning). I wanted to ride him in a different arena than the jump arena as that is all we have been able to ride in lately due to needing lights. The back arena near where we tack up has decent footing and the bonus of being right next to the trailhead so if anyone goes out or walks anywhere on the trail, we see it.

We did have some moments of counterflexing in order to try to keep an eye on the people half a mile across the field but overall, he paid attention. I wanted to try the diamond exercise I’d read about on a blog a few months back. I’m not 100% sure we did it right but it was good to keep him focused on me. We walked in a diamond pattern around the arena, with a quarter turn on the haunches at each point. Once we got that in walking, we did it in trot a bit, with a halt turn at each point. Scarlet got a little tense while doing it, as turn on the haunches asks him to do something with his hind end that is relatively hard. He is much better one way than the other. His right hind is his stiffer leg and he wasn’t pleased with having to flex and hold his weight there. He did very well with some large circles to let him relax in between. I tried to be very calm and clearly ask for him to move. I praised each correct step and I think it went well.

I also tried for a tiny bit of shoulder fore/shoulder while cooling down. I think we got some since I felt him move back straight when I released the cue. I’ll have to try it again sometime when I have someone there to tell me yes or no.

After all the fires recently, I decided I needed to do some preventative stuff for if Scarlet ever needs to be evacuated. He now has a dog tag with his name, my name and my number on his halter. If he is let loose, he has contact on there. If he is evacuated without me knowing where he is going, they have my number to contact me. It’s not as ideal as my own trailer in case of an emergency but it’s better than nothing.

Monday was another story. Scarlet started out losing the one tiny pea-sized marble he has in that big head of his. It was frustrating but I’m not as mad as the previous times. He was losing his head over the other horses around the arena. The mare next to him was throwing a fit at still being in the round pen and Scarlet thinks she is the sweetest thing he has ever seen so he was uber distracted by her. Then some horses walked on the trail and he couldn’t believe there were horses over there. All the distractions meant that he was paying absolutely zero attention to me. Corrections didn’t matter, urging him forward to ride him through his snit didn’t matter, nothing worked. I eventually settled on riding him into the dirt, which I don’t like to do. I can’t remember the last time I actually had to do that to get him to pay attention. We didn’t get any good work done but he was very sweaty and it was late so I called it good after he stopped freaking out.

So, 50/50 on rides this week. Not great but not terrible. Hopefully, he is too tired to muck about with me tomorrow.


This last week has not been great as far as riding for me. This is due to several different reasons. Primarily, the weather. I can ride in the rain. The barn I’m at doesn’t close off all the arenas so I’m able to get out. But I don’t enjoy it. If it is sprinkling, I’ll go out and ride. But it started raining Monday night and it was decently heavy on and off. I decided that wasn’t worth it. Then the sky opened up on Tuesday and tried to drown SoCal. No way I was going out then. Wednesday and Thursday I had things to do after work so the arenas being wet weren’t a problem.

Another reason I haven’t been out much was, even though I had an okay ride on Sunday, the attitude change with Scarlet really knocked me. When it became more tedious to make it out to the barn, I just didn’t. It’s not a great mindset.

The final major reason is training for my half marathon. I’ve done one before but it was back in college when I had a lot more time to train. I’ve got about a month left for this one and I’m finding out that I’m running out of spoons. I’ve only got so many spoons to use for tasks day to day and when I run more than three miles, it’s hard to get out to the barn. I’m tired. Forcing myself to run more tires my brain as well as my body. So, not enough spoons.

(Sidenote: if I EVER say I’m going to do a half marathon again, can someone please smack me upside the head? Please?)

So, all of the above are my excuses. Not great one and not ones that I should allow to keep me from going out. Friday, I went out and tossed Scarlet into a pen to lunge him a bit before getting on. I was sure he would be very energetic due to the lack of riding recently. He did trot and canter around but wasn’t moving forward at all. He was snorting and staring at a corner of the arena so I gave up and pulled him out to ride. He was muddy and grooming took a while. By the time I was ready to get on, the sun was going away. Luckily, the arena with the lights was also the best draining.

We walked and trotted. It wasn’t super nice footing but it wasn’t super sloppy. I didn’t want to canter either. Scarlet… didn’t have a brain but he wasn’t being bad. Just a bit up and down and staring.

Saturday, I almost didn’t go out but convinced myself that I really should. We headed into the arena without lunging. In the first trotting lap, Scarlet spooked at some leaves skittering across the driveway and almost took a header into the ground. He seriously spooked so hard he tripped over his own feet instead of trying to run sideways. Dumb horse. It jolted me quite hard and I was pretty annoyed at the ache it caused in my head for about half a lap. Then I got over it. It seemed to jolt his brain and he focused much better for the rest of the ride.

Other than not really wanting to bend, he was focused and moving forward. I’ve noticed he is leaning on his forehand more often when I ask him to move forward so I was trying to get him to put his weight back on his haunches with some half halts. It worked for a bit. Mostly, I think it’s a strength issue and I’ll work on it as we go throughout the year.

I was pretty happy with Saturday’s ride. It is nice to be able to go out and not hate my ride. I’m hoping he got whatever it was out of his system. I’m going to try to get out more often and do some sort of exercise with him. I also am going to try some groundwork with him. I don’t have many ideas for that. Most of the groundwork exercises I’ve seen online is all centered around breaking a horse or a horse that has never done groundwork. Scarlet knows how to lead, how to move when I tell him to move and how to move the various parts of his body. So I’m planning on working on backing, backing over poles, turn on the haunches/forehand and a bit of sidepass. Hopefully, they help bring him back to me a bit. If you guys have any other suggestions, I’d love to hear them.


I didn’t get out on Wednesday but I did get out on Thursday and Friday.

I wanted to just have a simple ride on Thursday. I had an audiobook that I was listening to and didn’t want to stop so I decided to listen to it while riding. Those rides, Scarlet really knows that I’m being half distracted and he takes advantage of it. Generally, he takes advantage by being lazy and taking an easy work day.

Not this time.

Everything was spooky. OMG that chair! The chair that has been there for months and months and has never moved. He spooked and didn’t pay any attention to me asking him to do anything. I should have stopped listening to the audiobook but after we started getting moving, he seemed to chill a bit. Then another horse came into the arena, rode with us for a bit and then left. And he threw a fit. How dare I force him to work after the other horse has left. We finished the ride fighting a bit. Not outright tantrums but more microaggressions that were somehow worse.

I think the horse leaving has been due to me riding with Holly and Uno more often recently. I like riding with her and chatting but I need to do that less now if he is going to associate another horse with stopping work now.

Friday evening, I didn’t listen to an audiobook. I came prepared to work during the ride since he hadn’t worked well the night before. And… well it was worse. It was mostly more of the same fighting me, spooking and ignoring me telling him to work. It was extremely frustrating. We ended up getting work done and he ended up being very sweaty at the end

I know these nights will happen. They used to happen more often. They were also less frustrating when they happened more often. He has been so good for the last few months. We’d have a moment or two during a ride where he was a bit of a butt but nothing like two nights full of brainless horse. It’s not really depressing or going to keep me from going out. But I really hope that this doesn’t become a trend. If so, I’m going to have to come up with some more methods of forcing him to pay attention to me and not everything else that is happening around the arena.

New Year

Hi all! I hope you all are ready for the new year! I’m so excited to see what this year holds. Unfortunately, I’m starting the year so far behind on blogs. Some BRILLIANT INDIVIDUAL (insert heavy sarcasm) thought that the end of the year would be the best place to release a new version of my company’s software. So we’ve been running around tails on fire for a few weeks. The date got pushed back to the middle of this month so a few more weeks of running around like that equals no time for reading blogs. (I’m sure I’m not the only one who reads blogs primarily at work)

Even with work being busy, I’ve made sure I had at least some time for seeing Scarlet. I actually got a decent amount of riding in between Xmas and the new year. We rode Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday last week.

Tuesday and Thursday were typical night rides. I wasn’t focused on doing much more than getting him out, moving, and stretching. We did do a few serpentines, some sitting trot and a bit of two point for me.

Friday, I was able to get out of work early and ended up going around the main trail with Holly, who I’ve been riding with at my barn. She is about my age and has a one-eyed thoroughbred called Uno. We’ve been riding together semi-frequently and it’s been nice to have someone to chat with on occasion.

We warmed up in the arena first. It’s always better that way for Scarlet because it gets most of his wiggles out first. Then we headed out. Scarlet was not chill with the idea of heading away from the barn but he somewhat followed along with Uno. Uno, for a thoroughbred, walks super slow. We ended up walking next to or ahead of him the whole time. Only once did Scarlet try to bolt back to the barn. That was partially my fault. He and Uno had stopped to stare back at the barn and I was hoping that if I just let him chill for a moment, he’d take a deep breath. Instead, per normal Scarlet tendencies, giving him time to process caused him to really realize we were far away. Instead of bolting across the field toward the barn, he wanted to bolt back down the trail the way we came. Odd but better than across the field. I got him under control after a few steps and turned him back around. We did the loop twice, which meant we were out for about 30 minutes. It was really awesome to do something different. I’m hoping to get Scarlet out on the trails a lot more come daylight time so that we can eventually do the small loop on our own as a cooldown. Big goals but we will see.

Saturday I went out to ride before heading off for my new year’s plans. We jumped a bit. We messed up the striding coming into a line and ended up having half a stride left before the jump so he launched himself over. Almost lost my stirrups there but I held on. It was a good jump from him, just way further away than we needed to be. I held him back the next time and we got the striding better. Silly horse gets excited and rushes the jumps. We couldn’t jump more after that as a walk trot lesson was being given in the corner of the arena and none of the lines were far enough away that I felt I could jump more safely.

I also got out on the 2nd and Scarlet forgot his brain for the first ride of the year. When I told my husband that, he asked: “Doesn’t forgetting his brain require him to have one first?” He knows my horse so well. XD

He was very looky this ride and I had to circle circle circle to get his attention on me. Bending was near impossible at the beginning of the ride. Everything was hard and why did I want him to actually carry his back instead of allowing him to lean against my hands? Half-halt? Oh you mean slow down and fling my head in the air? It was frustrating but not because he was deliberately being bad, but because everything took much longer to get done than it should have.

I wanted to round out the night by hopping over a small crossrail a couple of times at the trot, just to get a bit of fun in the ride. We turned and he saw a man walk out of the light of the arena into the darkness. He got so wound up about that that I received my first refusal everywhere. It went like this:

Turn the corner, point at the tiny maybe 1′ crossrail at the trot

Scarlet: What was that over there?! OMG HE DISAPPEARED! HE IS GOING TO GET ME!

Me: Focus boy, forward.

Scarlet: Mom! HE IS GOING TO EAT ME!!

Me: Scarlet the jump…

Scarlet: What jump?! OMG THIS JUMP???????!!!! *Stops and lowers his head to snort at the jump* Where the hell did this come from?!

Me: Sighs and backs him up to give me room to boot forward and over.

We then had a discussion on where his attention was and I finished the ride. Could have been better, could have been worse. I have a horse that is very easily spooked and distracted by things outside the arena. I know this and deal with it daily. But it would have been nice to have a more fun ride to start off the new year. Here is hoping that he is better this time.