2017 goals

I feel like Murray and I are situated to get some great work done this year.  We are both more skilled and k knowledgeable than in years past, and I have a much better understanding of what I’m looking for and how I should try to get it.  It helps that I finally understand how-when-what to push and what I should leave alone — and how those things change from day to day.

I also hope to have more time and money this year — sure, it might be a pipe dream, but a girl has got to hope!  With a little more of those two valuable resources at my disposal I should be able to get a bit more done this year!

riding-goalsSit the trot – how many years do I have to put this f*&$!ing goal on my goals list before I properly make it happen?!!  But for real, I don’t need to sit all the trots.  I just want to be able to sit the working trot and perform a first level trot sitting (not necessarily at a show).

Even out my hands – They are uneven. And I often open my fingers. Bad Nicole, bad.

Even out my weight in the stirrups – I am uneven. And my right stirrup leather is longer. Always.

Get myself and Murray fit – enough to run a Novice 3 day, even though we won’t do it until 2018 (at the very earliest).

Show rated – enough times to make my membership dues worth it. That’s three times at BN (I think) or once at Novice (no workaround for Novice level events), and I have no idea how many times for dressage memberships.

IMG_8478this was fun!

Go to at least two new venues – schooling or rated, it doesn’t matter. But Murray and I will never get better at showing and riding away from home if we don’t do it.

Go to at least one dressage-only show – rated or unrated. Get our dressage on!

Ride in two clinics – Riding with clinicians takes a little forethought, but I’d like to make it happen.

Develop the auto release – I fake it right now. It’s not pretty. Time to follow with the hands and use those elastic elbows.

Develop my seat – life goals = truly independent seat.

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

My biggest goal this year with Murray is to stop taking short cuts.  There are a lot of things I’ve skipped over in Murray’s training in favor of funner/better/other things.  “Things” like installing truly solid ground manners, in-hand work, and some under-saddle basics.  I have ignored, tolerated, and even enabled some downright bad behaviors in order to get to the thing(s) I want to do (the riding, and honestly probably the jumping).  I will write more about this because it warrants its very own post, but this will be the focus of our year.

I do have some specific goals for him.

Tack up while tied reliably – Murray and I have been getting a lot better at this, but we’re still not 100%. We need to be able to do this.

Full grooming in the cross ties – Murray hates, fears, and loathes the cross ties. Axtiesnything that startles or even worries him causes him to get squirrely, and the second he hits the end of the ties and feels them both on his face he spirals into a full-blown pony panic attack.  This has resulted in multiple cross-tie-breakings.  We must get over this.

Accept tacking up/handling/etc. by other people – There are currently two people who Murray will reliably behave for. Depending on the context he’ll do fine with other people but it’s far from reliable.  See “truly solid ground manners”.

Behave while being ridden by other people – Murray has been ridden by a handful of people since I took over his care, but rarely have they ever tried to get him to really work.  He’s basically goes into lesson pony mode when I throw someone else on him — or spiteful kicking monster when my trainer gets on him.  See “under saddle basics”.

Confirm the first-level movements – Murray can do the first level movements, but they aren’t show worthy.  We want to show first, right?  Time to get those movements scoring in the 7’s and up.

Grow Murray’s confidence – Last year was great for Murray’s confidence. We didn’t necessarily go out a ton to test this, but even at home his responses to hard questions have become more reasonable and less anxiety-driven.  Confidence is key with this  horse, I have to keep putting that first.

Improve symmetry – Murray falls over his right shoulder pretty hard, and I’ve been correcting for it in both directions with my right hand. We should probably, instead, focus on strengthening his body symmetrically.

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

Put up my Murray wall – I have some Murray art and his shoes I want to mount. I’ve been meaning to for a while, it’s kinda a personal-x-Murray project.

blog-goalsBlog more – I blogged less than I wanted to last year thanks to Real Life getting in the way.  I’d aim to write more and more regularly this year – at least 3x each week.

More ride recaps – I used to keep a pretty cut-and-dried ride journal for Murray, including a calendar of behavior/accomplishments. I no longer do this because I spend so much time writing here (and forgetfulness).  Ride recaps can be really valuable, so I’d like to get back to writing more of these.

Read more blogs – Pretty simple. Find more blogs to read and enjoy!

Comment more – I love getting blog comments and feel that I don’t reciprocate equally. I should fix that.

Meet more bloggers – I had so much fun stalking Peony, dining with L and Megan, and lunching with a whole bunch of California bloggers in the last two years! More, more, I want to meet more!



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 – I let myself get really pillowy over Christmas, and riding minimally this year has not helped things.  I want to make sure that my fitness is not impeding my ability to ride, or Murray’s ability to perform.  Specific goals include…

Run 5k – Not an actual 5k race (I have no interest in that), but I want to be able to run 5k on a semi-regular basis without feeling like it’s the end of the world.  I’m shooting for 4 total 5k runs this year.

ConqdBNjr3Z - Imguruer the pull-up – maybe even a few?!  I’ve never been able to do one, not even when I was in gymnastics as a child (and arguably the strongest in terms of mass that I have ever been).

Get a full time job – OMG maybe even career track?

Publish two chapters – Maybe even all three chapters?! I have to do some significant data re-analysis for two of the chapters (and then need to figure out how to frame the third chapter in all of its terrifying implications in a way that satisfies all authors, even the statisticians sigh), but the framework is there and I don’t need to do too much more literature reviewing to make it happen I think…

Properly pursue my side project(s) – I’m working with a primate nonprofit right now and really want to establish myself as a valued member of that organization. I’m exploring partnerships with community development orgs as well, which is something I’m very interested in. I don’t exactly know what I’m doing but I’m diving in head first.

Contribute to my Roth IRA – Retirement. Savings. Life. I need to think about it.


2016 goals review

I haven’t even looked at my goals list for this year yet and I know how minimal my accomplishments will be.  The year was not what I thought it would be for money, competition, fame, fortune, or anything that goes with it.  But it was a great year nonetheless, and has certainly shown me a thing or two about what my goals and “timeline” really should be for myself and my princess pony.

So let’s see how things really went.


I apparently set myself up for success by having my big goal this year be to keep learning from Murray.  I definitely did this.  He has taught me many things, but key among them has been to stop  being a dick about things.  Just because I’m right doesn’t give me an excuse to be an asshole.

Keep Murray’s health and wellbeing a priority — Success!  Pony is strong and a little chubby and pretty happy and shiny.


Increase Murray’s strength and suppleness — Also going to call this one a success.  Murray might not be as cardiovascularly fit as he was at this time last year since we have had so much time off this year, but he is overall stronger and more capable.  He’s also straighter and more flexible, if you can believe it. Wiinning.

Keep working on Murray’s behavior away from home — We didn’t go many places this year.  We had one horrifying, disastrous outing where I got publicly reprimanded for beating (some sense into) my horse.  But we also had two outings where Murray didn’t break away or get loose once!  Call it a halfie?

Show 2’9″ and 3′ and go clear the first time around — Nope. I showed BN once and went to no other away-from-home jumping events.

Show Beginner Novice and end on my dressage score — I didn’t do this either.  I did show BN once this year, but I accrued both time penalties and rails.  But it was the right choice.  I didn’t have the time, money, or opportunity to show more this year.  Despite not achieving this goal, I’m satisfied with Murray’s and my progress.  We did good work.

Show First level dressage — Nope.  I was soooo not ready.  I didn’t know it then, but I know it now.

Attend a rated dressage show — More nope.

Show at two new venues this year

Image result for nopetopus

Move up to Novice — This was a stretch goal, and neither Murray nor I was really ready for it.  That’s okay, there are other years for this.


Learn to sit the trot — I don’t do this very much with Murray, but I can do it.  Especially on my MIL’s horses.  I’m giving myself a 75% on this one.

Even out my hands — Success!  I am still inclined to be right-hand dominant, but I am way, way, way better than in the past.

Elastic elbows, consistent rein length — Success!! I can do this both jumping and in dressage.  This is epic.  I don’t even remember that I set this goal so it’s pretty awesome that I achieved it!


Learn how to ride like Hawley Bennett — Uhhh well, not really sure how well this worked out.  Let’s give it a 7% success?

Precision — I am still working on precision, and I’m having a lot of fun doing it.  Murray and I are both better at listening to one another and getting the long spot or the short spot as appropriate (not “as Murray feels like it”).  So I’d say I did pretty good on this one too!


Pay off the credit card — Nope. Embarrassing.  It’s not a huge balance, but it’s still carrying one.  It turns out that being funemployed for 6 months does not make for success in this realm.

Create a budget, stay within it — I pretty much did this.  I forwent a lot of potential shows and clinics, worked off my lessons, didn’t buy things I didn’t need, and didn’t make my debt any worse, at least.

Be able to run 3 miles without getting winded — I… cannot do this.


play06and it feels like this….

Develop a steady source of adult-adjacent income — I really did not do this.  I didn’t have a real adult income for at least 3 months this year, and while I’ve managed to get it together toward the end of the year and find a job for the new year (hooray!) this wasn’t really achieved in 2016.

Sell the horse — I did, in fact, find the Peanut a new home.


Post regularly through 2016 — My planned hiatus in March notwithstanding, I posted a fair bit.  Less than last year, but still fairly cosistent.

Develop NorCal OTTB blog into something more — I did not do this.  For reasons that needn’t be discussed in depth on the internet, NorCal OTTB has taken a back seat in the lives of everyone involved.  It lives on but in a smaller form.

end of the year goals

The good rides continue for me and Murray!  I’m reveling in the glory of how great it feels to develop a connection into which you can actually ride your horse.  Even after 4 nights of no turnout (hello, tiny fall rains!) and a rather sassy start to our ride where we both struggled to just trot, Murray was like “oh right, this game again. super!” And off we went, working on better gaits and pushing into the contact and even doing so with a fairly straight body for the most part.  IT JUST FEELS SO GOOD.

Yesterday we launched the zoo research challenge projects that I have been working on for the last month with Experiment.com.  You should head on over and have a look, if for no other reason than to watch adorable animal videos and have a look at some of the really super projects that are being done in zoos.  Like studying thermal images of tortoises and their environments to understand how different heat source influence their body temperature.  Or looking at circulating markers of fibrosis in gorillas (heart disease is the number one leading cause of death in captive great apes!).  Or a project that addresses how hooves of wild giraffe differ from those in captivity — something all of us ungulate-lovers should be able to get behind.  (PS That group has their very own GIRAFFE FARRIER I mean SHUT THE FRONT DOOR.)

lemurbootcamplemur boot camp features an adorable animated video that is 100% worth your time

I love all the projects that the researchers put together, but for the sake of brevity I won’t link them all here.  But they are all definitely worthy of contribution!

But let’s get on to some end of the year goals, shall we?  I’ve missed all the major quarters this year for goal setting, but as the year calms down a bit it seems like I could get some shit done in the next 60 days.


  • Continue/resume work on lengthenings so I can more easily incorporate them into trot improvement work
  • Put significant effort into sitting the trot (i.e. at least 5min per ride, 2x per week). I somehow avoided no stirrups November AGAIN this year, because it seems rather stupid to sit (very poorly) on Murray for much of a month while I’m having such success encouraging him to lift his back and move his whole body more.  I will make up for it with a no stirrups month early next year if trainers think we can handle it.
  • If trainers approve, re-incorporate some lateral work
  • Really nail our straightness/squares so we get good marks on our straightness homework when JM comes back in December
  • Have the fitter out to evaluate dressage saddle and price replacing foam with wool


  • Eat ALL the grass and roll in ALL the mud
  • Clip again towards the end of December
  • Avoid being mounted by friends in playtime turnout



  • File the thesis (still not done… sigh)
  • Get all my Experiement projects funded
  • Finish MAF grant application
  • Finish UFAW grant application
  • Increase tutoring hours – if I can get up to 20/week (a rather heavy schedule with all the driving included) I will be in really good shape, even including breaks for holidays
  • Get Macaron skills back!
  • Run once a week – work up to 5k
  • Apply for jobs?

2016 show schedule

I have a few major goals this year that pertain to showing, and they are pretty much all geared towards getting me and Murray in sync when we jump or dressage at a new place.  This is our greatest shortcoming.  If Murray is feeling good and confident, we’re fine!  I can handle that.  I can handle enthusiastically forward, I can handle bucking with feels, I can handle him being a little bit backed off or behind my leg.  What I have so far failed to handle, especially in the context of a whole course, is when he is scared and getting a little shut down.  That I am not so good at handling.

20830680750_ca8178fa47_kdouble derp

I would also like to be able to show in one of the many venues California has to offer.  I mean, we can run around XC at CEPF until the day we die, but that doesn’t mean we are going to have a successful run at a different show with different challenges.  I’m interested in being able to handle all of those challenges.  So with that in mind, here’s my proposed show schedule for this year.  I color-coded by jumper, dressage, or event.

February 7 — Jumper show at WSS (possible)

March 6 — Jumper show at WSS (unrated) — 2’6″, 2’9″

March 19 — Combined Test at WSS (unrated) — Beginner Novice
March 18,19 — March Mania Dressage at Rancho Murieta  (rated) — T-3, 1-1
March 20 — Pacific Equestrian Center Schooling Show (unrated) — T3, 1-1, 1-2

April 16, 17 — Horse Trials at CEPF (unrated) — Beginner Novice

April 24 — Pacific Equestrian Center Schooling Show (unrated) — T3, 1-1, 1-2

May ?? — Event Derby at UCD (unrated) — Beginner Novice

May 13, 14, 15 — Starr Vaughn Dressage (rated) — T3, 1-1, possibly 1-2

May 27, 28, 29 — Woodside Horse Trials (rated) — Beginner Novice

July 9, 10 — Dressage at Pacific Equestrian Center (rated) — T3, 1-1, 1-2

September 11 — Pacific Equestrian Center Schooling Show (unrated) — T3, 1-1, 1-2

September 24, 25 — Hiskens Horse Trials (unrated) — Novice

October 9 — Pacific Equestrian Center Schooling Show Championships (unrated) — wtf they have coolers and neck ribbons! shut the front door!

October 21, 22, 23 — Fresno County Horse Park Horse Trials (rated) — Novice
November 18, 19, 20 — Fresno County Horse Park Horse Trials (rated) — Novice

November 12, 13 — Starr Vaughn Dressage (rated) — T3, 1-1

Shows in Italics are the ones that only might happen, so I have my sights set on fewer shows than are actually on this schedule.  And there aren’t even any rated dressage shows (one of my goals… oops) that are more than “maybes”, but looking at the shows available to me it seemed like it might behoove me to show at a few unrated shows before trying to bust out my rated dressage show chops.  But perhaps I can squeeze a rated show in there at the end of the year.

IMG_3305I would like to jump this during the show

I would like to show at Camelot (April), because it’s awesome, I love it there, we school there all the time, and I need some redemption on that XC course.  And Woodside (May) is, believe it or not, one of the cheaper places in California for me to show at, despite the astronomical costs of getting there and schooling there, because my parents live close enough nearby that I can void all hotel costs.  In a perfect world I’d get a bit more time between Camelot and Woodside but I have some external travel plans that make that impossible… so if I’m going to show Woodside, it has to be in May.  Woodside is going to be a challenging show environment for both of us, as it’s busy, has lots of people there, and neither of us has been there much.  But it’s the good kind of challenge, and while their BN course is solid, it’s essentially the same as what we jumped (most of) at Camelot last year.

My hopeful plans to move up at the end of the year… well, we’ll see how that goes.  I’m pretty interested in keeping Murray confident and happy, but I do want to push things a little bit.  So I picked Hiskens as a move up in September, as they are known for having a slightly softer course with a few legitimate Novice questions.  Another place that Murray and I have never shown, and they have grass dressage courts (terrifying).  After that, I’d like to try showing at Fresno at Novice, which is also a pretty good move-up course — not super challenging terrain- or environment-wise, and not too expensive.  I am not tied to the goal of moving up.  If my lack of experience showing means that we can’t, then we can’t.  Then we just ride those venues at BN instead of Novice. It’s not like I’m running out of time

To 2016! Onward and upward.


2016 goals

I didn’t actually do an altogether terrible job of accomplishing my 2015 goals, and I found that setting goals was very helpful to my overall progress.  It was an overarching trajectory that I could (sometimes) see myself traveling in.  So here we go: goals for 2016!


My BIG goal for my relationship with Murray this year is to keep learning from him, as he’s quite a capable teacher when he wants to be.  However, that’s a rather nebulous goals, so I do have some more concrete goals to keep me on track.

wp-1449989989647.jpgKeep Murray’s health and wellbeing a priority — I try hard to do this, but sometimes I get caught up in my own goals.  Honestly, some of the way I treated Murray this year was not in his best interest (coughafterCamelotcough), and I want to really keep myself in check here and make sure that what I’m doing is benefitting HorseyBoy at all times.

(Dignity is, of course, something that needn’t be prioritized.)

Increase Murray’s strength and suppleness — One of the major things holding Murray and I back in dressage is his overall stiffness.  I think that increasing his muscling correctly and teaching him how to open up his joints, especially behind, will really help him be more comfortable using his body and with the work I will be asking him to do.

Keep working on Murray’s behavior away from home — we are almost a good show horse.  Almost.  Just got a few kinks to iron out.

Show 2’9, 3′ and go clear the first time around — I know that Murray and I are more than capable of coursing at these heights, but what I really need to work on is giving Murray the guidance and support he needs to confidently course these heights smoothly.  So that’s the goal.

Show Beginner Novice and end on my dressage score — I did this in 2015 and I want to repeat it in 2015.  Seems reasonable.

camelotfallIdeally no more of this. There’s only so much white breeches can take!

Show First level dressage — Murray and I have almost all the movements for at least 1-1 and 1-2 in the bag, so I should be able show at this level.  Most important for me will be staying relaxed through these tests and not having a meltdown at the show!

Attend a rated dressage show — And maybe show first level?

Show at two new venues this year — Part of getting Murray really comfortable with showing will be visiting other venues, so I need to expand my comfort zone and go to some new places!

Move up to Novice — This is a stretch goal for the end of the year. I want to get Murray and myself so thoroughly comfortable at BN that there won’t be any horrible surprises at Novice.  Yes, yes, I know a new level of showing always brings with it new challenges, but I mean things like announcers and jump judges and fences on terrain in general should not be the biggest challenge of the show.

IMG_3485I mean, we’re clearly capable of the jumping part…


Learn to sit the trot — MIL decreed that at least 50% of my rides need to be sitting now, so 2016 going to be the year I learn to sit the trot.

Even out my hands — I am majorly right-rein dependent, probably due to being right handed.  This is not good for riding.  Time to even out those babies.

12166369_10153008549506568_2105071803_nElastic elbows, consistent rein length — I am also a huge fan of too-long reins.  No more, I say!  Along with this comes elastic elbows.

Learn how to ride like Hawley Bennett — HB and I have similar-ish body shapes, so she’s something of my riding idol.  I’d like to start to develop the quiet, quick, and effective, independent seat that makes HB such an amazing equestrian.

Precision — More precision in 2016.  I’m not sure how to quantify this, but I am very intent on becoming a more precise rider.


Pay off the credit card — time to get that bitch gone.  I’ve lived essentially without a credit card the last two months and it’s had a huge positive influence on my spending.

Create a budget, stay within it — likewise, living without CCs for two months showed me that I really can rein my personal spending waaaay in.  Time to be a responsible adult about my money management.

image (1)Be able to run 3 miles without wanting to kill myself getting winded —  I can certainly, definitely, probably, almost run 3 miles now, especially if I were highly motivated (running from zombies, etc.). I am not a big fan of running, but I acknowledge that it is one of the best ways to build cardiovascular fitness.  I would like to be able to run 3 miles and not be winded


Get rich or die tryin’ Develop a steady source of adult-adjacent income  — I WILL be graduating this year, but some of my job goals are a little nebulous due to personal changes.  However, I know I can scrape together income from here and there that will be a reasonable living and salary and support myself and HorseyBoy.

Sell the horse — not Murray! Peanut is still looking for her person, and while I’m having fun riding her and letting others rider her, she is for sale…


I had a ton of fun with my Zen Baby Horse blog this year, and I want to keep having fun and posting regularly through 2016.  But I also want to develop the blog.  More entertaining posts?  More commenting?  My own domain name?  A fabulous new product that we all love and adore?

Develop NorCal OTTB blog into something more — I want to make the NorCal OTTB blog a resource that encourages participation from OTTB owners, and simultaneously provides an engaging, interesting, useful resource.  Is that too much to ask?  I’m going to try to write on there much more regularly in 2016.

2015 goals review

For the first time this year I set some goals for myself, Murray, and my blog.  So for the first time, I will be checking in to see how I did (lies, I checked in all throughout the year, but wasn’t necessarily being official about it).

Horse Goals

Show 2’6″, 2’9″, and 3′ — I only showed 2’6″, so at only a 33% success rate, I’m going to call this one a fail.  I didn’t get out to as many shows as I wanted to (shocking?) and only showed 2’6″ at the ones I did get to.  Ah well!  There’s always next year.


Show Beginner Novice and finish on my dressage score — Success!  We did it at WSS!

Go to a rated show – Another success!  We showed rated at both WSS and Camelot.

Show training level dressage — Failure.  I had high hopes to show First level at a schooling show, but Murray had to go ahead and cut his face open so… that did not happen.

Dressage, dressage, dressage! — Considering that I rode dressage 2-4 days a week this year, and just spent four days at mother-in-law dressage camp, I’m going to go ahead and call this one donezo!


Hammer down Murray’s feeding routine — done.  I am really, really, really pleased with Murray’s weight, and I’m done with alfalfa for-almost-the-most-part.  If I need a little more weight I know how to add it, and if I need a little less screaming hot energy, I know how to get that too.  Success!

Increase Murray’s confidence and independence — this is a work in progress, but considering that I worked at it pretty solidly, I will call it a success.

Hills work off property — I trailered out in February and March and again in April, but haven’t really done hills since the early part of this year.  Still, fairly successful… I will go ahead and give myself this one.


Breeze Murray for giggles — well, I didn’t breeze him, but I have let him go pretty fucking fast a few times and we broke 600 meters per minute on a gallop track.

Sit the trot and no-stirrups weekly — big fat fail on this one, but I will most certainly be sitting the trot weekly this year, as MIL has dictated it for my future dressage study.

Improve my cardio fitness — I… did not do this. I call it a fail.

Personal Goals

Graduate! — nope, don’t wanna talk about it.


Get a job! — I did actually get another job, just not one that uses my skills as a soon-to-be-PhD

Make a budget for life and stay within it — Also don’t want to talk about it.

Be less judgmental and more grateful — YES.  I AM WAY LESS JUDGMENTAL NOW AND HELLA GRATEFUL ALL THE TIME.

Train Ellie to heel and have her nails trimmed — my dog does not give a fuck what I want and is not food motivated and I love her deeply anyway.


Monetize some aspect of my life to make extra income for ponies — I did a bit of this, and am planning to do more!

Learn to drive a truck and trailer — I drove quad and a bobcat with a trailer on them… does that count?

Blog Goals

Keep blogging regularly — I succeeded the shit out of this goal.


Q3 recap, Q4 goals

My third quarter goals post was a little disorganized; a bit of a shambling-rambling mess.  But there were a few things in there that I can pull out logically:

  • shorten reins, maintaining elastic contact
  • acceptance of leg pressure with relaxation
  • poles, all over the world
  • lengthening of gaits
  • canter-walk transitions
  • new jump saddle?

So how did we do on those things?  First off, no new jump saddle: HOORAY!  I just shoved front shims in my Ecogold pad and that solved my saddle fit problems for now.

Let me just plug Ecogold here for a second — when I contacted John, of Ecogold, about needing shims not only was he extremely helpful, they were free.  John sent me a set of 3/4″ front shims for my flip half pad and a full size 1/2″ insert for the flip pad — which would decrease the overall padding underneath my saddle (otherwise it would be a 3/4″ shim atop a 3/4″ insert).  He also suggested a few different combinations of shim-pad-filler-cover that I could try, and my shims arrived two days after our conversation.  WTF IS THIS MAGIC?  I love you, Ecogold.

Oh, and they’re having a sale!  15% off available until 10/15

I also have been working hard at shortening my reins.  It feels unnatural to me, but it is honestly better — I can reach my hands and arms down to give Murray more space to stretch, but I don’t hang out with my hands in my lap.  I do consistently try    keep my reins shorter, and Murray has relaxed into this new relationship, so I’m going to call this one completed also.  Maintaining the elastic contact is a little more challenging, but it’s the same level of challenging that it was when my reins were too long so… ya know.  I have made progress here though.

Acceptance of leg pressure… well, we’re getting there.  I’ve realised that I’m pretty soft with my legs and don’t ask appropriately — I give up too quickly.  So this is going back on the list for this quarter, and I’ve been incorporating a little bit of Jane Savoie into my rides when I add leg — I say “go, go, go” aloud.  Because rarely am I just adding leg, usually I’m rebalancing in some way.  To this goal I’m expanding that I need to be able to add leg and have Murray respond promptly.

I’ve done a pittance of pole exercises.  Let’s not talk about it.

Gait lengthening, actually, has been kindof a success!  During my dressage lessons I’ve been told to lengthen a little, and when I put some leg on and push Murray can actually stretch out that gait in some balance instead of flailing!  THE PRIDE.  I HAS IT.  These need refining, but since I can access several lengths/speeds of gait at both the trot and canter, I’m quite happy.

Canter to walk transitions straight up didn’t happen.  We’re just not ready for them right now, the communication isn’t there.  It’s okay.  We will get there.

So, what is on the table for next quarter?

First up, responsiveness12166619_10153008549491568_976316798_n I want Murray to be responding to my aids promptly without reacting.  I want to be able to add leg and feel the corresponding surge of energy from behind.  This should be done without question.  Same goes for changes of gait — I don’t ask Murray to move from trot to canter so he can do it 12166369_10153008549506568_2105071803_nin his own good time.  This means that I have to be accountable for when I ask, but if I ask appropriately, Murray should do.

My own position needs a fair bit of tweaking.  The crookedness has reached all new levels of insanity.  I need to open my right shoulder/chest and follow with my right elbow.  I need octdressageto stretch up through my left side and down through my left leg.  I need to twist my body in the direction of the bend without shrinking or crumpling.  I need to stop riding so unevenly that my stirrups are TWO HOLES DIFFERENT from one side to the other (what garbage is that, fucking unevenness!!!, makes me so mad).  As evidenced by the pictures at left I can even myself out when I try, so try I must.

I would like Murray to learn how to work over raised cavaletti.  I’ve already started this, at one of the lower settings on the cavaletti, but only one at a time.  I’d like to make a nice, concrete goal of having him be able to trot or canter over three raised cavaletti in a row, and not all on the lowest setting.  Obviously, I will have to be able to ride the corresponding gait that comes with.

Murray needs some work on limbering both sides of his body as well.  He’s quite bendy to the right, but is unwilling to give up his right ribcage, so can be rather, uh, unhappy to the left.  This is ultimately influencing more than just his bendability, and I find that his entire gait is messed up going left.  So we will work on limbering both directions.

Poles all over the world will stay on the list.  I will aspire to do a pole exercise — not just four trot poles! a real exercise! — at least once a week outside of a lesson.

Finally, I really need to start working on the sitting trot.  Everything — position, hands, connection, gaits — seem to go out the window when I try to sit.  But sitting trot is coming for me in my dressage goals, so I can’t keep ignoring it.  I’ll work up to it a bit at a time, with two strategies.  One, sitting successively more steps while posting 4-8 steps in between.  Two, sitting a slow trot and keeping it connected (hard, but possible) so that Murray isn’t jostled too much and gets used to the idea.

I’m going to hold the canter-walk transition on the back burner for now.  I’m not certain that I have the responsiveness or communication skills to work on it right now, and it’s not going anywhere.  If it comes to us, it does.  If not, well, it doesn’t.