Tuesday, February 28, 2012


I know, I know. Terrible post name. I already wrote one blog about it though... ;-) Details to follow.

We had a fun (mostly) and (relatively) non-eventful drive down. We saw pretty much every kind of weather possible--sun, rain, snow, hail, clouds, fog. The snow was actually in southern California, which did not make me happy. Fortunately, it passed and I am now in lovely, sunny temperatures. It was 70ish today and is supposed to get warmer throughout the week. I have to admit, I giggle when the people from here walk by in parkas--I was a little warm in a long sleeve shirt.

As groom, I have gotten to do lots of washing, walking, holding, tacking, cleaning, and observing. You should be impressed at how clean Ms. Tatiana is.

Although to be honest, it wasn't me that washed her. I got Foster the spotty boy with his yellowed hocks and a whole bottle of quiksilver.

I am drinking in the atmosphere of HITS-Thermal. It's definitely the biggest, fanciest, coolest horse show I've ever been at. I like wandering between the rings and down the aisles (generally while hunting for something someone told me about and I'm unclear on what I'm supposed to be doing) and just seeing the sites.

Hopefully, I'm actually being a little bit useful on top of the ridiculous number of pictures I'm taking. My facebook activity got me a promotion from "groom" to "groom and person with Steph's phone" so that instead of just taking pictures and putting them on my facebook, I can add them to the 'Wasatch Sport Horses' group and all the friends and clients can see them, instead of just my friends.

Social media in my job description? Excellent. Now I just need to get paid to wander through the vendor village and touch expensive things. THEY HAVE SADDLE MAKERS HERE. ALSO REAL TACK STORES. (*^&$* you bloody overpriced feed store in ********).

We had two horses in the Grand Prix ring today, which was super fun (aside from their rather ridiculous Romeo-and-Juliet romance, which was completely contrived).

I'm relatively sure that three of the horses are competing tomorrow. While you are at your super exciting day jobs, think of me as I suffer through the vendor village and hack a jumper through a citrus orchard. Really, I don't know how I can take it.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Off Again, Off Again

thank you all for your kind words and support. this has not been an easy time for me, but i am looking forward to the future. in a few hours, i will be driving a giant truck with a giant trailer headed to california. not only will it be fun, i will also have some time and mental separation to process more. i will do my best to snag a computer occasionally and keep you updated. my apologies for the lack of capitalization and minimal punctuation. mobile blogging is not all it is cracked up to be.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Crossing the Rubicon

As you have probably noticed, the Wondermare has been absent from my bloggings for the past few weeks. She's been hanging out with one of Stephanie's clients and minding her manners during the end of her stall rest. She should be rejoining us after the return from California next month (like two weeks from now).

Here's the thing: I always thought that the reason I was terrified of jumping and trail riding and windy days and bad weather was because I was a crappy rider and if my perfectly reasonable horse did something predictable, I wasn't good enough to hang with it and I might get hurt badly. I was basing this supposition on the fact that it had happened before.

Enter Cuna.

Spending time with this old guy made me realize a few things.

1) I am not that terrible of a rider. I certainly had issues when I came to Stephanie in November, but I have improved drastically and am doing really well.

2) There are horses out there who will straight up let you ride them. He may not really, really -want- to do something, but if I ask him to, he will anyways. He won't rear. He won't threaten me. He's just generally a good guy.

3) Izzy is something less than the perfectly rational creature I was envisioning. Actually, most horses will go on trail rides. Many horses jump reliably. It is weird that she's usually great and occasionally terrible regardless of the style of care she's receiving.

4) Jumping and trail riding and new situations are not necessarily causes for complete panic. They can be fun. They should be fun. This picture of Izzy was taken on one of our best jumping days ever. It's gorgeous. I was terrified, and we were jumping crossrails.

After some pretty serious conversations with people I know and trust, I have come to this conclusion: Izzy is a lovely, lovely mare. She is an awesome mover, a reasonably scopey jumper, and she is not the horse for me right now. She really needs a rider who will either not push her or who will push her and not care. Izzy is smart enough not to hurt herself--it's just that she can stop well short of hurting herself and still scare me to death.

It's not that I need to just "grow a pair and get over it". This is something I do for fun, and she isn't fun for me. Cuna is fun. Other horses are fun. Izzy scares me and she knows it, and there is no reason for that to keep going on. Trust me when I say I haven't taken this decision lightly. I have waffled for weeks. I've probably driven everyone around me completely mad talking about it, but the feedback I've gotten is pretty unanimous. Even my husband, who is in no way a horse person, told me I should sell her. His words: "you sound way less confident now than when you started riding her". A blogger friend whose advice I solicited said this: "...the whole tone of your writing changed, you are comfortable, you are confident..." when referring to my stint on Cuna.

And you know what? I want to be that way. I want to enjoy this. I want to roll out of bed in the morning, excited to go for a ride because I know it will (usually) be a good experience. I don't want to dread jumping because of my horse. She can jump. She can jump very well. It's just that she and I have a personality conflict that goes deeper than training issues. She is a horse that HAS to be ridden forward--constantly. I am comfortable on a horse that just is forward. I don't want to chase them to the jump; I want them to take me.

It's a completely different paradigm. I cannot ask Izzy to be that horse, because she isn't that horse and there's nothing that will change that. She needs a rider that appreciates the gorgeous, vivacious creature that she is and can handle her quirks, and right now, it isn't me. She is a fabulous horse. I want all the best for her, and I am torn up about the whole thing--I want her to be right for me, but she isn't.

For three years, I've been sitting here saying, "Next year I'll enjoy this. Next year will be better." The truth is, "next year" cannot come for a meeting of incompatibles. Realistically, this year can be the year we both find something that makes us happy--Izzy can be someone else's ridiculously photogenic horse and I can find something that makes me happy. I don't know what that is yet, but I'm certain I'll find it.

Please don't take this the wrong way--Izzy is not a bad horse. She's still the Wondermare and I love her. It's just that I love her more from a distance than I do up close, and I want us both to be in a situation where we'll be happy.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Update with Video!

Look! We are amazing. This is from our lesson on Friday. Still rough around the edges, but I am jumping over fences and having fun. :-)

And today. It was blowing tiny icy snowflakes, but I wanted to go for a trail ride on Mr. Cuna. He'd never been this way before, but like the super awesome horse he is, I just pointed him down the trail on a loose rein and we were off on an adventure.

He's always alert and looking around, but never super bothered. What a guy!

I even talked a fellow boarder into taking her 3 year old paint who'd never been on a trail before into coming with us. Cuna lead the way (and stood between Murphy and some tarps at one point) and Murph trooped right along.

Here's to better weather tomorrow!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Test Post

i hope to keep blogging live from thermal next week, so i'm checking out mobile posting. This is a lot more work! Not sure how to add photos yet.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Another Day in Paradise

Today is amazing. It's in the mid fifties, sunny, and calm. I took the Audi mare out on a hack by ourselves and she was super, despite having a few days off lately.

I hadn't realized how profoundly Izzy had damaged my confidence in this area. The idea of hacking out alone made me incredibly nervous--it's just something you DO NOT DO on Izzy. She can be made to do it, but she'll constantly play "who's the bigger bitch" and take no prisoners.

Audi was interested and a little nervous, but quiet and obedient. When she got a little behind my leg, I told her to go forward. She did. Just like that. Interesting.

We finished off a gorgeous day with a jumping lesson on Cuna. Here is a slightly different angle of his adorable face. He look so heroic from this angle.

(Good news!! There is video evidence of me riding!! Bad news: It's on Stephanie's phone. I will show it to you when I get it.)

We started over a crossrail and let me get balanced and comfortable. Then we cantered small courses of 2'3" to 2'6"ish jumps, including a 2'6" square oxer. Omg! We didn't die.

As we cantered at the oxer for the first time, I lost my nerve about 4 strides out. For a stride I was convinced we would both die, and then in the next stride, I realized that Cuna would take care of us. I let him move up to the close spot in the last two strides, and he jumped it like it was nothing.

Right. It's different on a super awesome jumping horse.

We did the round again, this time with a little more balance and commitment, and it went brilliantly. So brilliantly that I finished with a ridiculous huge grin on my face.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

People are Crazy

Meet Trep. He's the giant chestnut gelding in the barn who is not Cuna. You can easily tell them apart--Cuna meets you at the front of his stall looking for cookies. Trep you go find in the back of his run while dodging hooves and teeth.

He is the definition of a mean bastard.

Don't mistake me. Trep is treasured by his owner because he is an amazing riding horse and as such, he has every possible spectrum of vet care to make him as comfortable as is possible for an equine to be.

It's not a pain issue--it's just Trep. He's cranky on the ground and we deal with it.

One of the ways of dealing with it is carefully managing his social interactions. When new people are in the barn, we ALWAYS warn them not to pet him or feed him treats. He isn't a "bad guy", but if he looks like he's going to hurt you, he will. We don't make a joke of it and we're not teasing.

More than 50 percent of the time when I give that warning, the warned person IMMEDIATELY becomes attracted to Trep by some sort of giant magnet. They feel the need to expose to him their soft tissue and appendages while wrapping their arms around his head or neck.

Seriously. It's weird. He's not misunderstood. He's not mistreated. He's not looking for a sugar mommy. He's definitely not poorly treated.

I warn people for their own good and they ignore me. They ignore his owner. They ignore his trainer.

Wtf, people. Do you have a deathwish?

My only solution is to pick the calmest, nicest horse in the barn and start a story about him. "This is Cuna. He's a mean ass bastard horse. Stay away from him or you might get singed from his fire breathing nostils." If I said that, you probably couldn't pry the women off him.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


Snow!! I don't think it was even in the forecast, but we got maybe half an inch of white fluffies. The ground didn't even really freeze, so we still get to ride outside today. Win!

It's in the mid forties now and the snow is mostly gone, which is ok with me.

We're gearing up to go to HITS in Thermal in less than two weeks, so I got to set jumps and adjust tack (and take some pictures!) instead of just race about madly. Don't get me wrong--I love racing about madly, but I also love watching.

Here's Steph jumping Ms Tatiana. I think they are doing the "ridiculously high jumpers that are not grand prix" or some such class. I'm sure you all envy me the task of keeping the white mare clean. ;-)

And a cute picture of the red man hanging out in the snow.

I rode him during a jumping lesson today. The lessoner was jumping like 3'+ and looking fabulous, but I kept thinking that if they'd just put the jumps down a couple holes, he and I could do it. I'm campaigning for a lesson tomorrow. It's pretty weird for me (you know, the scared AA) to be wishing for jumps, so I think this feeling needs to be capitalized upon.

Also. I'm planning a Cuna-man dress up day. Hopefully Saturday. We have all kinds of fun toys, plus he's a different color than Izzy so her stuff will look different on him. What else can you expect from a tack whore, really?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

At Odds

Had another good ride on the red man today. Hoping for some actual jumps tomorrow--this whole "flat riding" thing is getting boring.

That said, I'm thinking thoughts and pondering problems. What is it about cloudy days that make me so moody and doubtful?

Happy over-commercialized holiday of ridiculousness to all of you who care about that sort of thing.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Day of Awesome

I had two really solid flat schools on Mr. Cuna this weekend. It was good to take some time away from the jumps and just figure each other out. We did lots of transitions and figure eights and adjustments within his gaits to get more in sync. I'm hoping this leads to smoother jumps all around.

Fortunately, the day of awesome (today) did not involve Cuna in more than a peripheral way.

The little Audi mare that I like got cast in her stall Saturday night. She didn't struggle too much or hurt herself, but we think she was down for a while.

She's on SMZs and rest for a bit, and Stephanie told me to call her "if anything seemed unusual".

This was Audi while I fed breakfast. And did the first set of turnouts. And fed extra. She didn't move.

That seemed unusual to me, so I called.

A dose of banamine, a round of handwalking, and a 20 minute soak in epsom salts later, she was looking much better.

I got the next horse out to switch the turnouts.

I should have taken a picture--his left hind leg was fat and hot. I checked with the BO and she agreed it was a big deal, recommending bandaging, icing, and bute. As much as I hate to call Stephanie on her day off, it was time for call #2.

2 grams of bute and 20 minutes of cold hosing later, he looked a tiny bit better. He's getting a bandage on tonight.

Liz (the BO) warned me that bad things happen in threes.

I'm hoping this counts as my third thing. I had to body clip an entire horse yesterday with tiny trimming clippers because even under heavy sedation, he wouldn't stand for the big clippers. Guess how fast the tiny blades got dull?


Friday, February 10, 2012

A Jumping Fool

Haha. I call him "the light at the end of the tunnel".

Cuna, post lesson today.

Despite my only missing a single blogging day, we have a lot to catch up on! I have had two (count 'em) jumping lessons on the big red man.

Here was day one. Two single verticals and a one stride. The goal was to work on waiting with your position for your horse while remembering a small course.

It was my first time to actually jumping Cuna over anything more than 12" tall, so it was kind of an adventure. The awesome thing about Cuna is that he actually knows his job, so I would put him on a line and sit there and he would take me to the fence. So cool. I could trust him to go, so we could come in long or short or just right, and he'd take care of himself as long as I stayed out of the way.

Oh, also--old man can buck. I grabbed his face over one jump accidentally and he had a head-flipping, bucking fit about it. Right. Do not grab face. Grab mane instead.

He's a super balanced sort of guy, so we could really crank around the turns (which was NOT the goal of the exercise, but did happen a couple times). All in all, it was educational and get this, fun.

Yes, I just said a jumping lesson was fun. The only unfun part was that my lesson buddy is working like a maniac on fitness so we did jumping position at all three gaits for like 10 minutes. I can barely walk today.


Here we go! I had a couple hours notice that I would have another lesson today. About 30 minutes after finding that out, I thought "Huh. This is the point where I should be mind-numbingly afraid and just want to die."

But I didn't. I can't quite say I was looking forward to it, but I wasn't afraid of it.

I came better equipped this time--I put on my brand new spurs of my very own (they have rolly balls. be jealous) and a better fitting bit on poor Mr. Cuna.

We had a good warm up with a new lesson buddy, then got ready for what is fondly known as "the circle of death". I drew a paint diagram for those of you who aren't familiar with it.

Four verticals set six comfortable strides apart. It can be five long, nasty, sprawling strides, or even seven or eight pogo-sticky strides.

Each of us took a turn. Pick up a canter. Start your course. Jump! Land-one, two, three, four, five, six, jump! Land-

And so on. We had to make a circle with six strides between each fence with the four outside jumps set as 2'6"ish verticals.

Cuna is super mobile and super straight. Also he jumps. Hence, I have no idea why y'all think this is so hard. :p

I'm kidding. It was challenging, but we made it through.

Then it got hard. You see the blue fence in the middle with the blue groundlines? The new course was Top red, Yellow, Bottom red, around black jump, over blue jump, left to Top red, Black, Bottom red.


Those are not easy turns, even on a straight, jumping kind of horse. Oh, and the center vertical? That is taller than I have jumped in a really, really long time. My mind pretty much just exploded, and I was supposed to go first. I told myself that Cuna was just fine at this height and I aimed for the top red. Boom, boom, boom. Got the three. We careened around the black fence, but I got my eye on the line for the vertical and never even noticed how tall it was. Boom. Flying change and left now! Boom, boom, boom.

It was engaging, but I didn't feel terrified or overfaced. Stephanie put the jumps up a bit for our lesson buddy so they were 2'9"ish all around. I felt a twinge of nervousness wondering if we were going to do that, but then I remembered: hey. I just jumped this whole thing without freaking out. What's a few more inches on the big guy?

I was a tiny bit relieved when Stephanie told me that the old man had done enough for the day and we didn't end up going over the bigger fences, but it wasn't that knee-knocking relief that it used to be.

A quote keeps floating through my head. It's from "Afraid to Ride" by C.W. Anderson, which was one of my favorite books ever when I was a kid. (Ironically, it's about a chestnut TB.) "A bad horse took her courage away, but a good one can give it back."*

Anyways. It's not that Izzy is so very bad, but Cuna is being very good.

*I almost cried writing that. Weird.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Where a Friend is a Friend

I took this lovely shot this morning.

Yes folks, aboard the lovely giant OTTB Cuna. :-) It was our third ride together and I think I'm starting to get a feel for him. He's just so dang cool. He's a little looky, not spooky, and quite straightforward to ride.

Admittedly, right now we're just cruising along on loose reins to build fitness and loosen him up, but OMG I AM RIDING!!!! I don't know whether it's his ridiculously adorable face or his super soft coat or his sweet and needy personality, but I'm pretty smitten.

I want to steal him.

We just had a short ride today--the farrier and the dentist showed up at pretty much the same time and he was due for both, plus he's super easy to work on, so he was kind of in demand.

I took a quick picture before handing him over for his beauty treatments. Not only is he perfectly adorable and compliant, he also looks good in my bridle. Awww.

That said, Izzy has a new bridle on the way. It may find it's way to a chestnut TB near me somewhere.

It's been really interesting riding the old red guy. Due to the nature of my position, I do get on lots of different types of horses. Some I like, some I don't, most are just different. Sometimes it takes me a long time to get comfortable on a horse. We have a big moving dressage horse right now, and I feel like I just about bounce out of the tack every time he trots.

Cuna? He just felt comfortable and right.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Help Us Out!!

Izzy and I are in the running for a sweet custom saddle pad from Kate at Polar Square Designs. We entered with a picture and a poem. The photo with the most likes wins (and I happen to think our entry is super cool) so if you're on facebook, hop on over and vote for us here.

Poor mare is still on stall rest, but if we win, we could potentially get the pad just in time to start back under saddle. :-) Vote Aimee and Izzy in 2012!!

Monday, February 6, 2012

A New Phase

As y'all are aware, the pony mare is on 30 days of stall rest. I'm not even pulling her out to trot and check soundness because the point is for her to do absolutely nothing so she can actually heal. It could hardly be at a worse time for us--we're in the middle of the most concentrated lesson access we have ever had and she's not sound. Some of you mentioned that it's winter time, but where I'm poor and don't really show, the "season" is irrelevant for the most part.

Anyways. I was and am catch riding where I can, but since the weather has been lovely, most people are riding their own horses.

One of Stephanie's clients has her own place in addition to keeping her show/training horses with us. She is rehabbing poor Zymon (of broken patella and EN fame) at her house. Saturday, she mentioned that she has an old, experienced eventer just sitting around and would be happy to bring him out for me to ride and take Izzy back to her place to hang for a bit. Because I am ridiculous, I told her I would think about it.


I called her and said I would do it as long as the horse didn't buck excessively, rear, or bolt uncontrollably.

Meet Cuna. (Koo-nah. Koo-nah.) He's a 19 year old OTTB gelding who doubles as a novice level packer and would like to be an eq horse. He's spent the past few summers leased out to teenagers and packing them around. This winter, he was just hanging out in the field.

Don't let his fuzzy face deceive you--this boy is taller than Izzy and way more bony. No warmblood meatiness here.

His owner got on first and rode him around. This was his first time back under saddle in three months. She trailered him to a new place, saddled up in a strange barn, took him to an arena he'd never seen before, and just hopped on.

And he was fine. A little looky, never spooked, not silly. They walked, trotted, and cantered both ways and even hopped over a couple of little crossrails. It wasn't high quality work by any means--the old man needs some time to recondition and loosen up--but he was sane and sound.

Here they are, going around and doing a tiny jump. Cuna was a trooper about the whole thing. I hopped on after his owner to see how I liked him. Answer: the only thing he could have done for me not to like him at that point was pitch me headlong into the ground with no warning. Instead, he merrily went along, walk, trot, canter, and tiny jump (OMG I JUMPED SOMETHING!!!!) and was a good boy.
I thanked his owner profusely, then took Mr. Cuna back to the barn and shaved off all his hair and pulled his mane. Awww. Isn't he cute?

He was super to work around. Very quiet, very much a been-there-done-that kind of guy.

Izzy kept giving me the evil eye. I think mareface had a slight inkling something was up and this wasn't just another clip job for a client.

We made the switch. I packed up Izzy's stuff and ugard and she was off to her month long stay at what I told her was essentially a day spa. She'll have her own box stall at night and a little run to hang out in during the day.

In the mean time, Cuna's hanging out with me. I miss seeing Izzy's face in her stall in the morning, but Cuna is plenty cute in his own way. I'm taking advantage of my time with him to learn to ride and jump better than before, so when I get Izzy back, I'll be more the rider she needs.

Not gonna lie--I am having little fantasies about keeping them traded for the summer. Cuna could pack me around BN and N while Izzy learned the show ropes with a much more experienced rider. There are a ton of reasons why that won't work out, but it's a fun idea.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

stay tuned!

i may have some very exciting news regarding my riding situation tomorrowa

Friday, February 3, 2012

Just Can't Shake It

I haven't talked much about confidence lately because I've been feeling really good. I do fine in company for the most part, am ok taking some horses on the trail along, and haven't had that nasty, gut-wrenching fear in a while.

Until today. I was the only one on the schedule to ride and I was alone at the barn except for the morning care crew. The schedule had me riding two relatively uncomplicated horses in the indoor and lunging one. I lunged first--lil' guy was pretty good for being four.

Then it was time to tack up my first ride for the day. I tried to think of any excuse to not do itm but I kept coming back to this: when Stephanie comes back, how are you going to explain to her that you were too afraid to ride one easy horse in the indoor? How are you any help as a barn worker if you can't execute simple tasks?

You're not.
I decided to do the easier horse first. Audi may be green, but she's a black mega bitch mare, which is exactly how I like them. Because she's a total bitch, I know she doesn't mind being alone in the arena (although she very seriously minds being left behind). Besides, some of her issues are similar to Izzy's, so I'm familiar with how to deal with them.

I tacked up and headed to the indoor. She was good and quiet when I led her around it, so I went ahead and mounted. Lil' mare was a star. After a quick reminder, she remembered the lightness off the aids we'd worked on last time, so we started to adjust her downward transitions. Instead of letting her just drop all her weight onto her forehand and crash through the downwards, I started asking her to stay up and forward through the whole transition.

By the end, I'd say her trot/walk transition was at least 80% better. I rode for around 25 minutes and mostly felt good. When I started to get nervous, I'd intentionally relax my hip flexors and ask her for more forward. This would ease the tension she was feeling and make me more confident because she was ahead of my leg instead of ducked behind it.

Then I took her back to the barn and trimmed her face up so she'd look more like a real horse and less like a yak. Success! Mare didn't seem overly familiar with clippers, but she was sensible about introducing them and let me clip away merrily.

Overall, I feel good about today. I can't expect those feelings to just magically disappear and since I'm now riding well enough that I don't really -need- to be afraid, it's time to conquer the vestigial feelings and move forward.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Awards Time

Several of you have very kindly passed on an award to me. To those who were wondering, yes, I have less than 200 followers and therefore qualify. ;-)

I like all the blogs I follow, so it's tough to narrow it down to just five, but my five favorite blogs that I just recently started following and think you should, too are as follows:

Poor Woman Showing - Carly has been on a roller coaster this past couple months, but with her new man Bobby, has big plans for the future. She does it on a budget and with plenty of spunk.

High Tech Horse - Eva actually started blogging a while ago, then quit for a while, but is now back. She has a super morgan sporthorse named Reno and her lovely old guy and they live somewhere warm.

Pia's Parade - Gingham is like me with a bigger budget and the same tack whoring tenancies. She's also married with a thing for mares and a fab sense of humor.

Henry's Blog - The Fullers (although I suspect I'm talking about Mrs. Fuller) have a gorgeous chestnut thoroughbred in California. Adventures in a crowded barn are always fun.

Shades of Bay - An English Rider (one of the few bloggers I don't have a real name for...) is a college student in nowhere, Texas with a super cute bay thoroughbred. He's kind of a nut, but he's super lovable.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Loving the Girls

This is Ms. Audi, a 15.2ish warmblood something cross. I think. Not really sure of her breeding.

Anyways, she's black and female, so she's right up my alley. I actually had a little jumping instruction on her yesterday, which was super fun. Stephanie had set up 'the circle of death' which is 4 obstacles evenly spaced around a 15 or 20 meter circle. Audi is green enough that we had alternating trot poles and crossrails, but she was super about the whole thing. She doesn't quite know how to canter a pole and isn't super straight, but she tries hard and is very honest.

Today we could actually ride outside (I KNOW OMG!!!!!) and I got Audi again. She likes a quiet rider, so I got on, and just sat very still. Give an aid, relax, ask a question, relax. Keep it simple for her. She's got a lot of bad training to overcome (another thing I seem to like, lol), so I kept the reins pretty long and loose and rode her forward to a very polite contact.

She has a cute trot and a lovely little canter, so we bopped around and warmed up. She was rather dull to my aids, which is hard to deal with in a horse that wants a quiet rider. To work on that, we did a bunch of walk/trot/walk transitions. I'd ask with the lightest aid possible, and stop as soon as she responded. By the end of the session, it just took a light touch to move up and a slight tightening of my core muscles to go back down.

I actually felt like I somehow helped to improve lil' Ms Audi. :-) That's a bright spot in an otherwise crappy day.
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