learnin’ and burnin’

I still have a ton to write about from blogging hiatus (jump lessons, amazing biomechanics clinic, clicker training, etc.) but this weekend was too fun to skip, so we’ll have to fast forward a little and rewind later.

First, I got to hang out with this super cool friend and watch her show 3rd level for the first time!

murdering the mediums

I don’t have a lot of experience with dressage shows, and when I have been it’s always with my MIL who has shown pretty extensively and is campaigning her mares for year end awards. It’s a bit different for someone looking for scores at a level when getting out there for the first time. There are lots of different aspects of test riding that I’ve never thought of before — like maximizing points in certain movements, vs. generally trying to make the whole test “better” (a nebulous term if ever there was one).

And then that same super cool friend came and rode my notorious ottb!

not ready for 3rd yet — maybe next month
PS my friend is Kate, if you haven’t yet recognized her

Murray doesn’t love when other butts touch his back. He’s a one-butt kinda guy. But it was fabulous watching Kate torture him work through his ridiculousness (and smile while she did it), and encourage him to be better. Murray thought Kate was demanding and opinionated and let her know it.  She just smiled and kept nudging those opinions onto him.

we tried to make him go to rehab — he said no, no, no

We traded back and Kate made some suggestions to help me also convince Murray to be better. Murray was like “oh thank GOD you are back I’ll do anything you want  just don’t let that bossy lady sit on me again!” He was immediately much more forward, and Kate helped me work on slowing his movement down and sucking myself down into the saddle. I wish I had the ability to write gobs and gobs about it, but I was hot and tired and I think the Cliffs notes version is all I can get out.

  • Pillow the aids into Murray so he gets past the reactionary leg on –> FLAIL –> do the thing. We want leg on –> do the thing. Put the leg on, waaaaiiiiit for Murray to stop trying to flick my leg off with his skin, and then ask for the movement or transition or whatever.
  • Slow the post methodically — a slow rise, and a slow descent. Keep the post big, but don’t let Murray throw me around with his boopy hips.
  • Push up with the toes and the knees to keep the feet light and suck the seat bones down into the saddle.
  • Kneel more in the sitting trot — do not let my toes slide forward too far.
  • When my leg goes on, Murray should push into the bridle.
  • Shorten the reins but don’t lean with the shoulders. Don’t give up the connection, work to improve the connection. We want him to be almost heavy in the bridle. My triceps should hurt after riding him. It’s not actually going to happen, but we want to move toward this type of feel since Murray so desperately wants the opposite of it.
  • Keep the core strong — don’t get floppy through the middle. In any of it — transitions, posting, sitting trot, etc.
  • Do not use zero contact (floppy rein) as a reward.

I was proud of how well Mr. No responded — generally — to a stranger riding him. His previous method of objection was to brace on his underneck and hollow his back and take teeny, tiny, itsy, bitsy little anger steps. For the most part, Murray moved forward and into(ish) the bridle, and only had flaily responses when Kate put her leg on (shocker). This is pretty big progress for the big bad baby, and exciting for me that he’s understanding more and more what we want his default to be.

There was this  moment when I was adding positive tension to what felt like every single muscle in my body below my boobs, and trying to post super slowly, and bear down, and breathe, and it was hot and humid and muggy in the indoor. I looked out of the indoor and it was beautiful and sunny and blue and green and yellow — the mustards are blooming still. And I thought “oh it’s so beautiful and gorgeous and heavenly out there.” Then I turned my head back to the inside of the arena where it was dark and brown and gray and sweaty and hard. And I was like “why am I torturing myself in this hell again?” Then Kate told me to do something else with my body — I don’t know what, probably to suck less — and I did it even though it hurt, and I wasn’t outside in the beautiful blue and green and gold sunshiney mustard flowers. Because that’s how we get better.


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.

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!

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.