2018 goals

It’s taken me some time to put my goals together this year, as I’m trying to be all “responsible” and “adult”, make plans for my future, take steps toward something bigger, some kind of end goal.

In that vein of planning, I put a few moments into thinking about where I want to be in five years, and where I want Murray to be in five years.  I didn’t think about it too long — it made me uncomfortable so I quit!! But more realistically, it’s hard to think about where my horse should be in five years when I’m literally at the edge of my expertise where we are right now! Plus, who knows if he’ll have the ability or soundness to hold up to things I might want to do in five years?

Likewise for myself. I could say “In five years, I want to have my bronze medal!”, and that would be a pretty reasonable goal. Only, if this horse can’t do third (for any reason — doesn’t like dressage, lameness of body or mind, etc.) then I’m  SOL. I don’t presently have, and am unlikely to magically acquire in the next 4.95 years, the funds to lease or buy a capable horse to get those scores.

While that’s not the world’s worst excuse, it is an excuse, so I went ahead and made five-year goals that assume the horse and I stay healthy and sound enough to execute them. It was still hard.

nevertheless, I persisted

So, in five years… I would like Murray to be competing successfully at Training level and thinking about Prelim. Really, five years from now we will know very well whether or not Prelim is ever in our future.  If it is, I’d expect that we’d almost be ready to move up in five years.  Time is a-wastin’, after all. And I’d like to be working on third level dressage — maybe not showing, but working on show-quality versions of those skills.  I’d like to be able to take him to any show venue and complete, even if we’ve never seen the place before. I want to be able to take him off property to a clinic and demonstrate a reasonable reflection of our abilities, problems, and skill level.  I want to have enough saved up that I can stop contributing to insurance every year and know that, if he needs it, I’ll be able to cover him for anything insurance would cover him for.  Not all of these are pure Murray goals, of course.  A lot of the stuff in here means changes on my part also!

For myself, I want to be confirmed in good savings habits that will allow me to start putting money away toward mobility (in addition to necessary  savings): a truck and trailer in five years would give me a LOT of flexibility. I want to be working in a career position, not hopping from short-term to short-term gig hoping something will work out.  I’d like to have enough money and security to do what I love (feeding dollar bills to my horse) and take vacations.

Chipping away at the long term goals will be modest this year — at least on the fronts that require spending of money.

Complete 3 Novice level HTs — this is predicated upon that whole “saving money” thing, but this is my big show goal this year.

1+ dressage shows — schooling shows are fine, but getting out and doing the horse dancing thing is also a goal!

Ride in 2 clinics — this was super achievable in 2017, so it would be nice to do again in 2018. (Spoiler alert:  I am already halfway there!!)

4+ lessons with Tina/other dressage trainers — I put this in my savings goals this year also. I love riding with Tina, but I’m open to other dressage trainers too!

Sitting trot — another year of trying this, I guess. I think I might need it for that whole dressage thing.

Go to two new places — I’m going to go ahead and say that “new” will count as anywhere that pony hasn’t been in 2+ years. His memory can’t be that great, right?

Work without stirrups once a week — I’d like to do a whole No-stirrups November makeup month at some point. That would be… uh… ambitious of me.

Cavaletti Sundays — Some friends talked about doing a weekly cavaletti exercise. I often won’t do it on Sunday because I seem not to ride on a lot of Sundays (boyfriend, other life stuff, that whole thing), but cavaletti once a week would be a great exercise!

Boy has got some big goals this year!

Goal number one: Keep up with the Good Citizen Without Shortcuts program from 2017.

Cross ties — we are gonna do this. We have the tools!  Time to work up the motivation. Maybe when we’re over being nude.

Patience while tied — this is apparently some kind of thing that people practice with young horses to make them well  broke. I dunno. I hear it’s a good exercise.

Sort out the feet — the barefoot experiment is going pretty well, and I’m doing extra well resisting the urge to just slap shoes back on and call it good.  Murray’s feet will benefit from this, and it will help us sort out whatever underlying issues there are surrounding his feet.  And I know there are some.

Evaluate Murray’s living situation — at some point this year I’d like to experiment with pasture board. Not sure homeboy will like it, but he might.  Not sure I will like it, but if it’s better for the horse…

Keep soundness and health a priority — it’s worth reminding myself to continuously do this. It’s not that I purposely work my horse when he’s not sound, or that I try to make him unsound. It’s just that his low-level mechanical lameness makes it easy to brush off other little things as just part of the bigger peg-legged picture.

Don’t burn the skin off his legs. Seems simple, right? MAYBE NOT.

Ooh. Not sure I have any big blog goals this year. I’d like to explore getting my own domain. That lends a lot of flexibility and opportunity to a writer.

Write more science-y blogs. I have a few topics in mind that are already somewhat fleshed out (placebo effect of calmers/depo specifically, cribbing/stereotypic behaviors, how riders affect horse comfort) but if there are any you’d like to see, I’m happy to dig into the literature.

And because this has to do with online stuff (ish, but definitely the blogging/online horse community), I’ll throw it in here: develop a horse-specific income stream. I’d like to have an income stream that is just for Murray’s use (well, my use for Murray but you know). That way I’ll feel less guilty when I blow 1k showing for three days in Santa Barbara.  I piloted some tote bags on my friends for Christmas and they seemed to like the idea, so I’m working out how I can do this on a slightly larger scale.



Save a whole pile of money — be responsible, Nicole. Save money. Save enough money that you can go to Kenya in September!

Make time for a personal life — as do many people I know, I have this awful habit of planning to do too many things, making too many promises, and forgetting to make time to just sit back, relax, and what a whole buttload of Netflix with my boyfriend.

Sleep more — did you know that your bedtime is killing you? I fucking love sleeping. I am pledging to sleep more 8-hour nights this year!

Learn a new computer skill — computers are stupidly important in the world these days. It will probably make me more valuable and marketable if I learn a new computer language or skill.  Like SQL or … that’s the only one I’m thinking about right now, really.

Run once per week — that’s just 52 runs this year. Hardly any.

Pull ups — I’d like to be able to do three by the end of the year.

Be ruthless — I’m trying to do a lot of stuff this year. Get a career-track job. Save money. Stop over-extending myself. I need to start being a little more cutthroat in what I pursue. It’s not okay to half-ass a whole bunch of things. I need to start whole-assing fewer things.


the downside to clicker training

alternate title: when you fuck up the clicker training

Don’t clicker train your horse, they said. You will make him mouthy, they said. You will make him beg, they said. You will teach him bad behaviors, they said. You can’t change his nature, they said.

Psh, I said.

look how good at standing still this clicker trained horse is

Then it rained.

Then I clipped.

I’ve made a terrible mistake.

have been getting real familiar with this view

So let’s back up just a skosh.

I knew I had to clip last weekend. Murray is getting back into real work, and he’s not really in shape, so he sweats. But he won’t be rid of all that hair until May-ish (when he is usually done shedding out), and I don’t have the time to deal with a fully-haired horse in full work in hot-AF-California weather. It’s just… not going to work for us.  So I sharpened my blades, girded my loins, and prepared to clip.

As in past years, Murray was not totally down with the clipping thing, but he was relatively good. Because I kept a relatively steady stream of small handfuls of his favourite grain headed straight from my fanny-pack-full-of-treats to his mouth.  For some reason, he never really settled down.  Maybe it’s because I was too absorbed listening to Oathbringer on audiobook to pay full attention to him and click for good behavior instead of not-bad behavior (probably should have learned by now not to multitask my training). Maybe it’s because there was a huge storm system coming in and the barometer was plummeting.  Maybe he felt like being a punk.  Maybe, maybe, maybe.

I get it. It’s hard having such an incompetent clown for an owner. But we got it done.

It was the day after we clipped that the shit hit the fan.

First, Murray had his first tacking up incident since we started clicker training. I couldn’t really blame him… everything was wet and slick, and I wasn’t being considerate of the fact that he was newly nudified.  On top of it, however, he was a cookie-demanding monster.  Kiddo could not stand still to save his life, he just hit me with an onslaught of various behaviors in an attempt to acquire rewards.

This continued when we headed out to the arena, where Murray started digging at the footing almost immediately. I kept him walking so he wouldn’t roll (in the hopes that his desire to roll would dissipate), but there was absolutely no regard for either my personal space or (what I thought were) the firmly established rules of walking and clicker training. Murray was barging past me, cutting in toward me, pushing me over with his shoulders, and then snaking his head around to grab his reward for this excellent behavior from me.

Um, no. It does not work that way.

opinions, opinions, opinions

I stopped giving him treats at this point, instead focusing on the “do not fucking climb on me you horrendous beast” aspect of groundwork.  In response, Murray upped his desperate attempts to acquire any kind of grain reward from him.  When we walked over a ground pole he stopped after putting two feet over, then immediately walked backward over it without prompting. He never wants to walk backward over poles without prompting.  I tested this out again and approached another single ground pole, and he walked forward and backward over it and then looked expectantly at me.  When no treat revealed itself, he threw his head to the ground and started pawing.

It was around this point that I realized we’d not be riding that day, and I needed to take a different approach. I took off his saddle (for which he was really unreasonable and awful), and Murray immediately threw himself on the ground to roll.  He got up, took two drunken steps, then threw himself down again for another go.

After this, we worked on basic ground manner and basics. You don’t walk on top of me, you don’t shove into me with your shoulders, and you definitely don’t run past me and then walk around me in a circle. In fact, all of our sessions since then have been heavily focused on calming the fuck down and listening, instead of wildly offering any and all behaviors in a desperate attempt to see them rewarded.

murray’s spook level post clipping

And this, my friends, is what you get when you fork up your clicker training. I’m fairly certain that my unconscious clicking while clipping led to Murray being rewarded for a lot of crappy behaviors, and his expectation of a lot of rewards in a short amount of time. So I will need to take a new, more self-conscious approach when tackling training during challenging tasks in the future.

This has also highlighted some holes in my clicker training program. Patience and behavior duration, to name a few.  That’s what we’ll be focusing on for the next few weeks as we get back into serious training.  Hopefully I will suffer a minimal number of days when Murray desperately needs to throw himself on the ground instead of being ridden.

some things I’m saving for

Some clever bloggers are smart enough to keep track of their horsey expenditures in some kind of organized fashion.  Some people who shall remain nameless were not clever enough to do that.


I’ve been sitting down and doing some real #adulting lately, and decided that it would be a good idea to sit down and look at my equine expenditures and see how much I’m likely to spend on horsey stuff this year.  It’ll be interesting to see if reality matches up with expectations at the end of the year.  I ultimately decided not to share this information on the blog because I’m not really comfortable just… letting the entire world know exactly how much money I waste super-value-ably spend on my horse.  But there are some equine expenditures that I’m saving for that I don’t mind sharing.

gotta keep this little prince in the manner to which he has become accustomed

I’d like to bring bodywork into Murray’s life. He’s gotten a few massages over the years, but he doesn’t really like them. Our super wonderful massage therapist (A) has seen him a bunch as she’s at our barn all the time, but never laid hands on him. A and I discussed what to do with a horse like Murray who would benefit from the work, but inherently doesn’t trust humans, doesn’t really like being touched, and likes being touched and made to hurt (which massages sometimes do!) even less.  A actually had a whole program she’d work through with him. And, as I said above, Murray would really benefit from it, I think.  I hope he won’t need monthly appointments, but I’m budgeting for appointments every other month at around $70 each. (~$420)

I never got around to putting Murray on this last year, even though I intended to. He had his hocks done, then shortly after got stalled for the year.  It’s a monthly thing with a loading dose, and costs about $20 per dose. (~$200)

REALLY hoping I don’t have to, but many horses need these done annually. But saving for them regardless. If we don’t need them done, that’s money I get to keep! (~$400 without rads)

lets revisit the reason I spend all this money!

Rated events!
I’d like to go to some shows this year. They are fun! Right? I’d really like to not get eliminated at them also. Stretch goal: not have my horse try to dig his way out of his stall overnight.  The costs in this post are still pretty accurate. So if I aim to go to Fresno (~$800), Camelot (~$800), and Shepherd (not on the list because I used old data, but I suspect about $1100), plus memberships, I’m going to need to save close to $3000 to do that. Gulp.

Other shows?
Other shows maybe on the docket include some schooling dressage shows, maybe a couple of local fundraisers, oh, and clinics!  These are significantly less expensive, more like $200 for the whole weekend. I’d like the opportunity to spend $800 or so on those.

This is the first time I’ve really sat down and thought out my non-necessity spending in advance. Usually I’m just like “Oh, Twin sounds fun! I’ll find money!” and then I find money (or put it on a credit card and find the money later). But I’m turning thirty this year, and am trying to be a little more responsible with this whole thing.  And to make it translate to my hamster brain, this means I’ll need to put around $400/month aside just for these purposes, whether or not I use it that month.

So tell me: how do you do this? What am I missing here? Is there a clever-er way to plan and track this?  If I were really clever, I guess I could have saved last year for this year… or I could start saving this year for next year…. but that seems like a problem for Future Nicole.

Suzukini progress report

Since she played such a prominent part in the last quarter of 2017, I thought I’d give a little update on Suzy’s progress last year. Suzy used to be Sookie, but I can’t seem to stick to one name or the other, so I’ve taken to calling her Suzuki as it’s the best of both names and gives a little hint to the secret, sporty little mare who was hiding beneath all the chub when she arrived. (And Suzukini is just too tempting, since I love to play with words anyway.)

awwww look how short her broodmare tail was!! (october)

Suzy came to our barn as a six year old after weaning her 2017 foal, and had clearly enjoyed the benefits of being in broodmare pasture. Girl was chubby! I started riding her in September, when she’d been at the barn for a few weeks, and lost a few pounds, already.  From the very beginning Suzy was sweet and easy to work with on the ground.  She was definitely on the lazy side about work, really playing up that whole I-grew-a-baby-horse-in-my-body-didn’t-you-hear thing.  When walking to the arena she would habitually try to just veer us back toward her stall instead.

early november: bod getting trimmer, tail getting longer!

Suzy was naturally pretty forward and sensitive.  I mentioned this before, but she was sensitive is all the right ways — she would listen to your seat, naturally understood a half halt, and wanted to do the right thing.  She was so smart and quick on the uptake.  There was a downside to the cleverness: once Suzy figured out what I wanted, she was very quick to offer that as the answer to almost everything.  Which meant that things got a little challenging when there were different right answers to different requests.  Canter leads were (and sometime still are!) quite a good example of this.  Suzy was happy to pick up either lead at the canter — canter was what I wanted, right?  And for quite a long time it seemed that she didn’t even understand that there were two different types of canter, so the leads were pretty interchangeable.

early november again, with mare-friend Lucy looking on

I tackled the canter leads problem by using a verbal cue (kiss) for the right lead, and a seat cue for the left lead (swinging left hip forward).  I kept the two cues and leads separate, and always tried to set Suzy up for the correct lead before asking.  I definitely didn’t solve the problem this way, but I think it did help.  As her canter got stronger, so did her ability to pick up the correct lead.  It probably shouldn’t surprise me — as her legs got less disorganized and her muscles got stronger, it felt more natural to be on the correct lead for a given direction.

early december — trimming down in all the right places!

And that brings us to her development under saddle, which has been pretty incredible!  It’s a bit awful to admit, but it’s so easy to get a bit unreasonably frustrated with Suzy sometimes.  She rides like a pretty educated horse, but she’s really just five months off the track (with an 18 month hiatus in the middle!).

When we first got together, I had to ride the Sookini smack in the middle of the arena, far from any walls she could get glued to, or the arena gate to get seriously distracted by.  And this is not an exaggeration.  If we were by a wall it was like some intense force of gravity was pulling her outside shoulder toward it, and only another intense force of gravity could get that shoulder back in line with her body.  Girl had a mighty flexible neck, but almost no ability to bend through her ribcage.

mid december:  pretty sporty, huh?!

Though to be fair, I imagine it was pretty challenging to step under with that big belly and thunder thighs in the way.  As she’s trimmed down, all the little pieces have fallen into place.  Suzy can do baby-ottb versions of all the important moves now: shoulder in, leg yield, bending, even round-ish circles!  Her canter is absolutely gorgeous now.  Suzy’s canter was a real mess in September — to the point where I wouldn’t canter her under saddle because it was so strange and unbalanced.  And she’d break to the trot any time a challenge — pole, turn, puddle, etc. — presented itself at the canter.  Now you practically can’t-er stop her!  It’s comfy and forward and way more adjustable than Suzy realizes.  Honestly, I think she’d be annoyed at the amount of work we can trick her into doing at the canter if she realized it.  She just loves cantering now, so she’s happy to sit down and do the work!

the rhythm was still a little funky in early december, but sooo much better!

And she is so fun to jump!  Suzy’s still learning, but she’s forward and game and she knows how to go there to the fences.  There’s lots of work to do still in the jumping, but she was quick to figure out how to get over the fences.  And that clever mind?  SO helpful here.  She might clobber through a fence on one go through, but the next time around she’s ready to pick her feet up and try something different.  She’s even starting to learn how to keep an even pace to the fences and not pull or rush to a super deep spot.

I feel so lucky to have spent the last four months of 2017 working with Suzy.  And I’m even luckier that her current owner is happy to let me keep riding her!  I dunno — maybe I’m the only one who’s terribly excited by all of this (well, me and Suzy’s owner!), but she has been such fun to watch and feel progress.  It’s such a different progress trajectory than Murray had — I am such a more balanced rider now, and she’s got such a different attitude (with different challenges of course).  I’m looking forward to seeing where this little girl goes in the next five months (and beyond!).

2017 eventing bingo: final call

I was pretty amped when Emma suggested Eventing Bingo this year.  I knew when I saw my cards that I wasn’t likely to get a full row, but thought I’d take a stab at it anyway.  In a perfect world, my bingo cards would have been a little more Murray-centric. But I guess I’ll take what fate gives me.

Anyway, I figured with all of the 2017 updates, I’d update my bingo cards as well. And lookie here — with just a teeeensy bit of creative credit-giving, I knocked out quite a few more cells!

So sure, we didn’t compete in heavy rain by anyone’s standards… but in June, we had a crazy, aseasonal DELUGE and got nearly 1/4 of an inch overnight before dressage.  I feel like doing dressage in the slop is really in the spirit of “heavy rain”, since rain in June in Camelot is basically an apocalypse-level event.

this court was the better of the two and it was still sloppy! okay, sloppy FOR CALIFORNIA

I also had no brakes at this event as we approached the trakehner. I knew we needed to slow down and get a look at the fence, but could we slow? Noooope.

I somehow managed to finish second to last at two events, and third to last in the third I competed in this year. So I just modified my cards a little to make them more applicable to my status in the bottom 3.

At Camelot in August we had a pretty baller square halt. I don’t remember if the judge commented on it (too lazy to go get the test), but here’s the photographic evidence (thanks Kate!).

mmmm lookin’ so good with all that burned-off skin missing from your cannons

And in August I also fell off of my horse during a warm up day for XC.  Camelot schooling shows let you school and warm up on the XC course on the Friday before the event begins, which is where I fell off and sprained my MCL.  So I went ahead and gave myself “fell off in warmup” as well.

A rousing success it was not.  There were a couple of rows there with four items selected, but not the fifth… which is a bummer but OH WELL.  I can’t say that I’m sad I didn’t miss the finish flags or fall off in stadium!

In the end, I made a few modifications to my bingo card so that it more accurately reflects my season. Murray ain’t leaving any strides out any time soon, so I changed all of those to more accurately reflect his tendencies (deep spots and screaming). And how lucky is it to ride in a division where more than half the riders were eliminated?! Or get toted around stadium and XC on a sprained MCL, coming in a full minute under optimum to boot?  Notorious OTTB, that’s who.

and look, we got Bingo twice!!


just keep clicking

I’ve mentioned this several times already, but in case you somehow missed the memo, I can now tack up my horse!!!!  Yes, ladies and gentlemen, you read that correctly.  I can now do with my 9 (nine!!! how did that happen?) year old a task that many three-year-olds — and even two-year-olds on the track — perform daily with almost no fuss.

I. Am. So. Proud.

murray models a medieval pony torture device

We’re just about a year out from our last Major Malfunction, but that wasn’t the last time we struggled with tacking up. That day was a major outlier, but Murray’s never been an easy tack up.  And there have been days when I lost hold of the girth or the billets or the horse or some piece of tack or whatnot in the wiggling.  He’s just never been good at it. Never.

So, how did we accomplish this thing? Hippy granola shit with a big side of voodoo magic, that’s how.

When I last blogged about re-training tacking up, I was still working with Murray in his paddock at liberty. I was using the jollyball to indicate a target where he should stand still (with his nose placed on the ball), and was putting a variety of things on him (girth over the back, saddle pad, surcingle, etc.) and clicking and treating when he returned to the jollyball.  The idea behind this was that he was allowed to be scared, but being with me was to be more reinforcing than being scared.

side benefit of training your horse to stand: he can now be trusted in the hay/grain barn while you scoop things!

Stupidly, I didn’t write about the process at all between then and now. Before working with the saddle at all, I started practicing standing still at the tie rings in the barn aisle.  As with most new behaviors I clicked and treated a lot in the beginning for anything resembling standing still.  Now I intermittently reinforce Murray for not wiggling around.

I do remember that I decided not to risk one of my saddles by tacking up for the first time in his paddock.  What I really did not want was for Murray to freak out and the saddle to get thrown into the gravel and then trampled while I watched in horror.

One day I decided to just bite the bullet and go for it.  At some point during our clicker session I brought Murray out into the barn aisle and just started tacking him up like it was no big deal.  I made sure to work slowly and smoothly with lots of clicking and treating as he stood still through each step of the process (saddle pad on, half pad on, saddle on, etc.).  When we got to the girth I buckled the right side (click-treat) then moved over to the left and grabbed the girth and just held it against his belly and instantly clicked and treated. I literally did not give him a chance to think about it before I was stuffing grain in his mouth.  I did this again and held the girth for a moment longer before I rewarded him once more.  Finally, I held the girth against Murray’s belly and went for the buckle… only to discover that I had buckled the damn thing too high on the right and I couldn’t reach any buckles on the left.

i see no reason that my pony shouldn’t perform (most) of the behaviors of a dog in obedience classes
(also, is his little jumping-horse-shaped star not the greatest?!)

At this point Murray got a little agitated, so I quickly clicked and treated with a big handful of grain because he hadn’t gone anywhere (yet), and moved around to the other side. I lowered the girth (click-treat), moved back to the left side (click-treat), and held the girth up against his tummy again (click-treat).  I then managed to get the girth buckled on a pretty low hole on both billets, gave Murray a huge pile of treats, and promptly walked him away from the tie ring.

And the whole time he did nothing more serious than shift his feet around a bit.

It was pretty astonishing, frankly.

Since then, we’ve moved pretty quickly from tacking up while totally untied (I would loop the leadrope over his neck), to tacking up while tied on the blocker ring, to tacking up and tightening the girth (modestly) while tied.  And through all of it he has been totally reasonable.  He’s seriously a totally different horse about tacking up now.  I’ve way decreased my click-treat frequency so that I can get both sides buckled before breaking to reward him.  We still walk away after girthing as has always helped him kinda stretch out his pecs and get used to the idea of a saddle, but I have been gradually increasing the duration that he stands quiet and still before we do this.

With a couple of weeks of thoughtful, dedicated training, I eliminated a behavioral problem I’ve had for four years. I mean, I like clicker training. But I did not expect this to go that fast.

I absolutely do not expect other behaviors to solidify this quickly.  In fact, there are other things I’m working on that are stubbornly not solidifying like this.  But I’m pretty happy with where we have managed to get with our clicker training!  The behavior even stuck over our 2+ week break, which is also quite impressive for the Murr Man.

I’ll have to sit down and think out some distinct clicker goals for us this year, and make some proper training plans. Beyond this behavior, I haven’t really thought out the clicker training in a cohesive manner, and having a plan will definitely benefit us in the long run.


2017 goals review

As much as I love year-in-review posts, I don’t love facing a big pile of unmet goals.  I was really, really optimistic about some of my goals in early 2017 — especially in light of my financial situation!!  So I took a peek at my goals post to see how I’d done against them, and it wasn’t soooo bad… so here we go.

I’m going with Alternative Colour Coding. Purple is success, Tealish is halfway, Sad Brown is a no-go.

riding-goalsSit the trot – Ummm. I put this at the top of my list for a reason. And I kinda did it? I can sit the trot on a whole handful of horses.  Mine just… isn’t one of them. Back on the list for 2018 it goes.

Even out my hands – Giving myself this one. I have much more even hands, and a way better feel for when my hands are doing weird and crazy shit.

no wild and crazy hand shit here!

Even out my weight in the stirrups – Same thing here. After I borked my knee I got uneven again, but I was feeling really solid in both stirrups before that whole sprained MCL thing.

Get myself and Murray fit – We were on track to make this happen (for Murray), but then he got put on stall rest 3/4 of the way through the year so… yeah that didn’t happen. I am still a tubba lard in the fitness department.

Show rated – We showed rated at Twin (BN) and Camelot (BN). Not quite enough to justify the membership (came up $20 short on that), but if we hadn’t been sidelined we would probably have gone to November Fresno! Giving myself this one.

Go to at least two new venues – We went to Twin, which was new and awesome!, and then a few places that we’re really familiar with. Bummer.

Go to at least one dressage-only show – Peony and I did this in June! I wanted to do it more, but, you know. Real life. Finances. Etc.

Ride in two clinics – I rode with Hawley in February and Yves in December. Just squeezed it in, but we did it!

Develop the auto release – Err… nope. Worked on it. Got a lot better with my hands. Did not quite get there.

getting there…

Develop my seat – My seat got WAY better this year.

murray-goalsMurray gets his very own goals segment, because Murray.

My biggest goal this year with Murray is to stop taking short cuts.  Dudes. We did this. I have gone back to square one and reworked a ton of behaviors. Right now we’re in the middle of rehabbing his hideous feet, and they are getting better but it’s slow. As tempted as I am, I’m not going to shove shoes back on to mask whatever underlying issues may be there. (No, I swear I’m not going to. Even though I REALLY WANT TO RIGHT NOW.)

Tack up while tied reliably – RAISE THE ROOF FRIENDS AND FELLOWS. MY HORSE DOES THIS NOW. The last few weeks + clicker training were integral here. Pretty sure I could do it without the grain and clicker if I wanted to.

not my best riding, but a really cool fence

Full grooming in the cross ties – Murray stepped foot in the cross ties exactly one time this year. When we did his hocks. We’ll get at this in 2018.

Accept tacking up/handling/etc. by other people – Murray hasn’t been tacked up or handled by uh… almost anyone but me this year.

Behave while being ridden by other people – Ditto this one.

Confirm the first-level movements – We maybe wouldn’t be getting 7s on all our first level movements, but before stall rest hit, we could do all of them in a controlled fashion. The counter canter was, honestly, getting kinda baller. We’ll come back at this again in 2018, with all new tools!

Grow Murray’s confidence – Ditto this one! Murray is killing it on the confidence front right now. I even managed to borrow from him a few times this year!

Improve symmetry – Improve is nice and vague, so I’m going to give us this one too. Before the break, Murray was getting a lot better on his right side.

Get a saddle fitter out – I’ve been meaning to do this for a while. He’s worth it.

Put up my Murray wall – Almost finished! Just have to put up the photos. Ribbons, art, and shoes are all up!

yeah all these ribbons adorn my CHAMPIONZ wall nowblog-goalsBlog more – I blogged more in 2017 than I did in 2016, but not quite as much as 2015. I’d like to get to even more blogging this year!

More ride recaps – I didn’t count, but I’m pretty sure I did more of these.

Read more blogs – I worked hard on this in the beginning of the year and I found a whole bunch of new blogs to follow. I think I’m up to 113 blogs in my feed now!  I wasn’t so great at reading and commenting for large portions of this year, but I’ve had a great time catching up.

Comment more – I did this off and on!


Meet more bloggers – Check, check, and check! Hung out with Peony, L, and Megan again, met Jen, hung with Alyssa, forced my friendship upon Kate, got to ride the Mule and the Mustangs, and promised and failed to hang out with Emma, Austen, and Niamh. And of course, Kathy.



I made this ribbon vector thinking I’d have a “competition goals” header, and then I didn’t.  So I threw it in for personal goals instead, because obviously my major personal goal is to continue winning at life.  (By the by, if anyone wants a swirly ribbon vector… you know where to find me).  My personal goals might better be represented by a stack of money but… ribbons are kinda like money?

Improve fitness and strength – Errr….

Run 5k – I… did not do this. I had a really cool spot to run around at my last house, and now I don’t have a cool place to run… so I guess it’ll be around the pastures a hundred times for me.

Conquer the pull-up – I DID ONE OF THESE. I was really good about working on this at the beginning of the year, and it fell off hard after I tweaked my neck. Let’s do two this year.

Get a full time job – I did this too! It was a contract job, it ended in December, and now I’m on the hunt again.

why can’t I look good in selfies with other humans? or non-super-awkward animals?

Publish two chapters – I published zero chapters. I need to get some motivation up to get this done. That shit needs to be out of my computer.

Properly pursue my side project(s) – I’m still working with the primate nonprofit, and while it took a pretty hard hit while I was a full time employee, I’m still at it. Chipping away at making the world a better place, one email at a time.

Contribute to my Roth IRA – Nope. Re-routed those savings to the wedding instead.

So when you add it all up, I got a 67.19% / 32.89 pen and THAT is a qualifying score my friends!  I plan to judge all of my life by dressage standards from now on!