Sunday, December 13, 2015

The Barefoot Journey

First of all, what an eventful weekend it has been...

Yesterday was a long day of shopping with one of my best friend's M. After a morning at the barn, we drove down to one of our favorite tack stores for their annual holiday sale. Although there wasn't anything SUPER awesome on closeout, we did par-take in the BOGO clipper blades (a tradition and a favorite! yay body clipping!) and I finally got a breast collar for Cool/Johnny. This one came from the racing tack section, but I love it all the same. For only $36, I took home a soft, well oiled breast collar. I used it today on both Cool and Johnny, they both look smashing in it.

It was 65 degrees today (woohoo springtime in the winter!) so I worked all of my horses today...well, all except for Emmy, who decided to choke and make me call the vet, but that's another story.

I've been doing lots of research on conditioning and barefoot conditioning/hoof health. This has become an interest of mine since deciding to venture down the road of barefoot rehabilitation with my two "crippled" horses. Both Cool and Johnny have significant, yet similar issues. Both have been diagnosed with navicular and ring bone (my main concern with Cool) and Johnny has significant DJD in his stifles which causes him more pain on some days than others. Cool has never had his hock x-rayed, but I'm sure that trouble is brewing back there as well.

I used to be of the mindset that the whole "natural barefoot hoof trimming" movement was all a bunch of crap...and honestly, there are some "natural barefoot" farriers who I think ARE full of crap. I wouldn't let them trim my finger nails, let alone my horses feet. Perhaps this is because I'm from an area full of quarter million dollar show hunters who would never dream of going barefoot...the shoeless horses are yahoos just like the shoeless children running around!

I was all about the horse shoes...the wedges and the pads (pour-in's only please on my horses!) in fact, Emmy competed for YEARS successfully with just that package. We pulled her shoes one time in the winter and she was crippled as fuck. She didn't walk a sound step until I put her shoes back on in the spring time. I loved my farrier then (I still do) and I accepted the fact that my tender Thoroughbred just wasn't meant to walk without Prada's.

And then I moved out to the boondocks with (at the time) future hubby and the hunt was on for a new farrier. I went through 6 of them that first year...SIX. Every 8 weeks someone new came out to shoe my horses. I was ready to rip my hair out. How hard could it be to trim correctly and nail four shoes to some hooves? If you've never owned a horse, you just can't even being to understand the woes of finding either a new farrier or a new vet. Its like finding a new dentist....its just impossible.

We finally found R, a reasonably priced farrier who did good work and was (bonus!) from my home town area. We knew many of the same people and I found out that he actually shoed for many of my friends back home. We had lots to talk about, and I insisted that he not change a single thing on Emmy's feet. She was hard to shoe, I told him. Just keep her like she is.

Of course, he didn't. He took her out of her wedge shoe on our third appointment together. Emmy instantly went lame. I called him back, bitched him out, and told him to put her back in it. She HAS to have her wedges I told him. He complied, came back out and changed her shoes. Emmy was sound. A few more appointments later, I picked up her feet one day and realized that, once again, she didn't have a wedge shoe on. Except that this time, I hadn't even noticed that it was gone, and Emmy didn't seem to mind either. The longer he shod my horses, the more "crap" he took off them. I began to understand what he was trying to convey to me the first time he'd pulled the Prada's off my girl. R's philosophy is to grow a better hoof, not just Band-Aid a crappy one together. The problem is that growing better hooves takes time, and no one wants to wait for that.

Last winter, we pulled shoes on all of our horses. The temperatures were sub-zero, we had no indoor to ride in, and I was sick of popping ice balls out of my horses feet. R pulled shoes on everyone except Gus....and miraculously, Emmy never walked a lame step.

In fact, she's never worn shoes again.

In the years that it took him to sculpt my horses feet, what he did was make her foot grow to a better, stronger shape. When I decided to pull her shoes, it didn't matter, because the internal and external structures of her foot were strong and correct. She's never taken an sore step in a solid year without shoes.

I noticed also, that Cool, who has been plagued by mysterious lameness all summer, was also suddenly sound. In fact, when we x-rayed him the following spring and found his navicular, he really hadn't even been lame.

Of course, the vets gave me a regiment of shoeing changes for him. One told me eggbars, one told me wedges and another told me to roll his toe for the ringbone. We compromised with an aluminum shoe and a small wedge. I mean, we had to do something right?

Cool was sound for like 1 week, and then went completely lame.

Never blocks, Isox, Osphos injections and one more shoeing change....hundreds of dollars later I had a horse that was barely sound at the walk, let alone the trot. The Osphos did seem to help him, but the more we messed with his feet, the worse he got. After an entire summer of zero progress, I was frustrated and ready to give up. The farrier came back to trim him and I told him that I was done.

Pull the shoe I said to him I'm not putting another dime into this horses feet.

And miraculously, he got better.

And then I began to think. And I realized, that Cool has been at his most sound point over the winter and into the early spring, WITHOUT the shoes. It was only after nailing pieces of metal back to his feet that we really began to see lameness again. I started researching barefoot navicular horses on my lunch breaks at work, and what I found, really made me think.

To read the website that really inspired me, visit

I think you'll find it worth your time to read. I'll elaborate more in my next post! Until then, do your research my friends!

Until next time


Saturday, December 5, 2015

Time Well Spent

So I had half of this post written when my computer just randomly decided to freeze and I lost the entire thing....

I will try to re-write what I can of it, however, I'm sure it wont nearly be as good as it was the first time.

I've been absent for several reasons: first and foremost of which is because of log-in problems that I was having with Blogger. Hopefully this is resolved! The other reason though, is because its been a WHIRLWIND year for me.

We did get around to radiographing Cool in the spring, his x-rays showed navicular changes, low articulate ringbone and a possible splint bone fracture (the fracture was later ruled out by several other vets as just radiograph technique as it did not appear in any other photos.) It was a devastating time for both my husband and me. We spent the entire summer and several hundreds of dollars on standard "treatment," only to have mild success followed by a horse who eventually ended up more lame than he had ever been before treatment. We did inject him with Osphos, which at the time, was completely new to the market. It certainly did help him immensely, but I found that the shoeing corrections seems to make him worse. At the end of it all, I had a miserable, unrideable horse.

We pulled his shoes a few months ago and discontinued the daily anti-inflammatories. My endless research into these "diseases" has led me to consider a barefoot treatment plan for him. I'll go into it all in my next post, once everyone is up to speed with the details from the rest of the year.

So, in short, Cool spent the summer in relaxation. I think I rode him all of 5 times before I gave up and just focused on Gus. This winter will be all about growing a better hoof for him to help him cope with his problems, next year, we'll be back at it.

I spent my entire summer working with Gus, our main focus being the All American Quarter Horse Congress at the end of the year in October. I actually spent my 1 year wedding anniversary in Columbus at a horse show. Hubby has been extra lenient to me this year...I think partially he felt bad that my dreams of Congress with Cool would not become reality. Instead, we took Gus. Hubby and I hauled him there ourselves in our small, two horse trailer with our farm truck that has roughly 280,000 miles on it. We slept in a hotel (or hubby did at least....I spent all night riding because that's the only times the rings were open!) We waited until 10pm to show in my last class and then loaded up and drove 3 hours home so that we could go to work the next day. The overall experience was was unlike any horse show I've ever attended.

Gus and I did not get called back in our classes, but we put in performances that were acceptable and respectable. My friends at work watched our jumping classes on the live feed, my parents stayed up all night to watch my flat class from the comfort of their living room. And all the while, there were hubby and I, standing in a class of 150 people and feeling like we actually belonged. It was something that I wouldn't have traded for the world.

Gus after our schooling ride out first night at the Congress in the new Buckeye Arena

How I spent my anniversary...

My best friend M giving Gus a pep talk. She was there for us at the EOQHA show and the Congress. I couldn't have done it without her!
Gus and I did our first combined test in June...we had SO much fun! Next year I'll be focusing on the jumpers with him!
Baby jumpers at South Farm
Cool at Maplebrook: one of our last rides before I pulled his shoes. He was dead lame.

We expanded our arena this summer!

...and we got a mini. Because who doesn't need one of those? Meet "MRF Voyager," we call him Gimli in the barn!

I haven't ridden Emmy much, this was us sporting our red/white/blue on the 4th of July. I hope to ride her more this winter, she's 28 now!

Gus is boarded at Maplebrook for the winter now, he's got a lease on him so I don't get to ride much...only once a week or so. But its better for him to stay in work! We are taking one or two dressage/jumping lessons a month with my childhood trainer.

I have tons more pictures from Congress that I will have to upload from my phone later! I'll go into details about our barefoot journey with Cool and I'll give you all some exciting news in my next post!

As always,


Sunday, February 8, 2015

Sunday Funday

Pretty good Sunday today.

I had to work yesterday, so the ponies just got a full day of turnout, which they desperately needed. The weather this weekend has been amazingly warm, so everyone has gone blanket-less all weekend. I think that the horses must have rolled 6 times a piece out in the snow...they were so itchy!

This morning, the hubby and I sat on the couch and had coffee and donuts for breakfast (my favorite!) and then I let the horses out again until about 1:00pm or so.

I did get everyone worked today, which was great! I started with Gus, first on the lunge line and then under saddle. It was my first time back in the saddle since my unexpected departure from Cool's back a week and a half ago. I was so happy that my knee didn't bother me at all, even though the bruising on my shin and knee joint is still pretty impressive. Gus was so great! He even offered to stretch down with me!

After that, I took Emmy for a hack in the snow, mainly just walk/trot out on the trails. I didn't do a ton with her because a) shes old, and b) trotting through hock deep snow is enough of a workout. I stayed on her until she walked herself back to the barn and stood at the door as if to say ok, that's enough of that.

Cool was next, and I have to admit that I was apprehensive to get back in the saddle on him. He's just been so unpredictable lately, a trait that is so NOT him. I've decided to go back to basics with him for a while, working on the lunge line with side reins, which is exactly what I did today. I tacked him up fully and then added side reins. I never start off lunging with the side reins on, I think its important for the horse to stretch out before being asked to collect and work. Cool didn't want to go forward at first, but eventually he did comply. He has a nasty habit of cutting into the middle of the lunging circle, although today the snow was so deep that he was very content to stay on the path that Gus had made for him. This really worked out to my advantage, because I didn't have to fumble with making him stay out like I normally do. After he was warmed up I added the side reins and immediately he got bug-eyed and tried to avoid them by putting his head sky high in the air. It took a couple of laps for him to finally give in. We worked on voice commands while getting him to relax down into the bridle. He was really good! I got him to do upward and downward transitions just with voice commands, and then ended with a canter-to-trot transition and then straight to a "woah," I was so happy when he tucked his butt and went right to a halt. I'm going to keep working him like that for a while, it will especially help since I want to do the equitation classes with him this year. I'm hoping that going back to the basics will help get his brain back.

So, in closing, I had a really good Sunday :) Now it's time to feed the ponies dinner and make some scrumptious spaghetti for the hubby and I.

'Til next time,

(below are some pictures for your viewing enjoyment)

 Emmy after our ride today (above)

Emmy and Gus playing Wednesday in the snow (photos below)

Riding Gussie today (below)

Our barn cat Oliver likes to horseback ride too! (below)

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Wild Thing

So, I took a pretty spectacular tumble off Cool the other day.

And by "tumble" I mean that he bucked me the hell off, which was truly about as pleasant as it sounds.

Of course I was wearing my nice (and newly monogrammed...thanks Personally Preppy!) Charles Owen helmet and Tailored Sportsman breeches and (since I have no indoor arena) I was riding outside and therefore landed on the ice and snow. But whose counting anyway, right?

The worst part of the entire ordeal (aside from the fact that Cool legitimately tried to get me off his back, which is not okay with me) is how sore I am in the aftermath of it all. I swear, when I was a kid I used to splat off horses all the time and I just kind of shook myself off and got back on. I might have been a little sore the next day, but nothing like this.

But let me back up to how this all started to begin with, that is, how I ended up in this sad state of bruises and swelling and muscles so sore that I can barely get out of bed in the morning.

I've been trying to get Cool out ever other day or so on the lunge line to work him a little in an attempt to get him back into some semblance of "shape." Show season comes early around here, and since I have some major show plans for the fall and no place to ride all winter, I need all the help that I can get. While most people's horses are ready for show season in May, I'm still at home watching the weather and praying for drought so that the arena dries up. When I sat down at the start of the year to line out my plan (...which I actually never shared on here come to think of it...) I knew that I couldn't spend all summer getting the horse fit and then hope that everything works out at our biggest show of the year in October. I was going to need to go into May's first rated show with a horse that wasn't a sloppy mess of jello and googly, wild, I-haven't-been-ridden-in-4-months bug eyes. So, as the weather and footing continues to deteriorate, I've turned to lunging to help keep my horse at least half fit.

Or at least I thought.

I've been careful with Cool for months. He went mysteriously lame last June, something that has baffled the vets, farriers, and anyone else that I have look at him. There isn't particularly anything obviously wrong with him. He jogs dead lame one day and totally sound the next. In fact, the last time the vet performed flexion tests on him, he got sounder as we went on. By the end of the lameness exam, my grade 3-4 lame horse was suddenly, completely sound.

Yeah, explain that one.

I've tried all routes of treatment: stall rest, hand walking, icing, Bute, name it. Nothing particularly makes him better (well, except the Previcox...but that's not a solution.) When weeks of icing, wrapping and babying didn't work, I said to hell with it all and just turned him out. For 30 solid days, he did nothing but go out and eat grass, and then come back into the stall. On our first ride after that month, he trotted two sound laps around the arena before he started limping again. He wasn't any worse than before, but he certainly wasn't any better. So the question became, what do I do? What do you do with a horse who doesn't get better with rest, and doesn't get worse with turnout? After hundreds of dollars in vet bills and no answers, my solution was nothing. Nothing. I was going to let him sit around for the rest of the year and do nothing. My wedding was quickly approaching, and my coffers for the Cool Vet Fund were empty.

So, after almost 7 months with no answers, he finally seems to be doing better. My new job at the vet office has it's perks, I get a pretty solid discount on products, procedures and diagnostics. I have plans to fully x-ray his legs in February (something that we didn't do before because we couldn't keep him consistently lame enough to block, and therefore had no idea where to even begin x-raying.) but in the mean time, he seems to be pretty sound (knocks on wood.) I've been extra slow to bring him back into work, and extra cautious to take care of his legs afterwards.

And clearly, he's feeling well enough to spook and buck, because that's exactly what he did when he threw me off. I lunged him lightly before riding him, which was uneventful. In fact, he seemed lazy. Eager to work, but he offered nothing to me on the lunge line. In fact, our first few minutes of riding were very uneventful. He put his head down once for a little hopping thing, but that was all. His trot work, though limited, was beautiful, with his head stretching down and his neck arched. He was pushing forward and reaching through the bridle. I  was just starting a celebration in my mind, dancing around in my head and rejoicing, thinking to myself my god he remembers!! 

And then it happened. So quickly that by the time I realized what was starting, there was no stopping it. We trotted through a corner to the left (having already trotted and cantered to the right)  and I asked for canter. He went once stride and his head suddenly cocked to the outside, I saw the white of his right eyeball, and thought oh shit.

He EXPLODED. One huge buck which almost unseated me. He never bucks, not with his hind legs actually. His usual M.O. is to drop his head all the way to the ground and leap up and down in the air with his shoulders, but in all reality, the hind legs never really come up. This time, they did. He bucked so high that he almost unseated me, but that wasn't the bad part. When his hind legs came back down to the ground, he dug in like a racehorse and bolted. Not a scoot, not a spook, a bolt. A flat out, head down, dead run back for the barn. I dug my heels down and pulled up against the reins. It was like pulling against a rock, I had absolutely nothing. I pulled the left rein in an attempt to circle him...nothing. It was probably one of the scariest two seconds of my life, because I literally had no control of him and he was headed straight for the small pathway that runs between the barn and the semi-trailer that we store our hay in. I had a split second where I thought to myself, jesus christ...this is going to be bad.
As we neared the edge of the arena I made one final feeble attempt to pull him up, hailing back on his mouth as hard as I could. Cool, in response, threw his head down and leapt into a series of bucks that would make a rodeo bronc proud, front legs leaping off the ground and then hind legs extending in a buck that rippled through his body like a wave, tossing you backwards first, and then snapping you forward towards his neck. I think that I sat threw at least three of them, each time finding it harder and harder to keep myself in the tack. I was clinging to the side of him, only two more strides from the corner of the barn.

It's amazing how fast the human brain can work. How, in a split second, you can assess a situation and make a decision about it. Thinking back on it, I remember seeing the barn wall approaching and knowing that there was no way I was going to stay on this horse. The way I saw it, I had two options, try to hold on, and fall off into the hard barn siding, or accept fate, and let go.
I chose the latter.

It seemed like it took forever to hit the ground, but when I did, it was knee first, followed by my elbow, shoulder and lastly my head (thank god for my helmet!) I had so much momentum coming down that I actually had to try and stop myself from sliding and rolling over. The very first thought I had as my body impacted into the snow was how much I had underestimated the firmness of the ground. Riding in circles over the snow covered ground had packed it down to a near ice like state. It was hard as concrete, and as I looked up to see Cool bucking across the arena, reins dangling around his neck, I was instantly aware of how much pain was radiating from my leg. It was instant pain, something that I've never felt falling off a horse before. By now, Cool had stopped his escapade and was standing in the middle of the arena looking at me. I scraped myself off the ground slowly, testing my leg to make sure that I could actually stand on it. I could, but from the hip down my entire leg was shaking uncontrollably, and I was on the verge of tears.

I'll spare you the rest of the details, as it would make for a very long post, but I did manage to get back on and trot and canter again, and then I promptly put Cool back on the lunge line where he played rodeo horse again, running and bucking like an idiot. I have no idea what's gotten into him lately, he's been so wild, so uncharacteristic of himself. I lamented over it with my husband last night, telling him that I just don't even know what to do with him anymore. I can barely ride him, and I sure as heck am not going to get majorly hurt over it. I was lucky that my fall wasn't worse, because, thinking back on it, it could have been. What if he would have slipped and fallen down with me? What if I would have held on, only to have him barrel down into the barn and throw me into the barn wall? Or even worse, throw me into the semi-trailer? My husband (who is by no means a competent horse person, but sticks like glue and has legs long enough to wrap around a horse's belly) says that he will get on Cool and ride him before I do again, but I'm still worried.

What happened to my horse that needed a firecracker to make him canter? I know that he's been out of work for a while, but shouldn't he be unfit and lazy like he was when we first got him? The horse that laid down with me on his back when he decided that he was too hot and tired to work anymore? Where is that horse?

It seems like we have a long way to go, and a short time to get there :(

'Til next time,


Sunday, January 25, 2015

Sunday Funday: Photo Blog

Since I just posted a somewhat lengthy post regarding George Morris, I thought that I would just add a few of today's pictures for your enjoyment :)

Gus getting a snowy lunge session

Cool after his lunging session...getting out some bucks!

And of course, the always stellar Emmy after our snowy hack :)

You can follow my horses some more via my Instagram account @LiveToFly87

As always,


George Morris: 15 Riding Tips

George Morris (aka: the all-knowing and powerful guru of hunter/jumper land) puts on a Horsemastership Training Session in Wellington, Florida each year. If you are one of the lucky participants, it's the opportunity of a lifetime. If you're in the area, it's a must-see to audit. If you are, however, like the vast majority of rest of us though, you wait around for 5 days in January, scouring the internet for video, audio and text clips of wisdom from "the master" of modern hunt seat riding. (one of my favorite websites) published an article recently reflecting on 15 of George Morris's top riding tips that he highlighted during his clinic. To read the full article, click here.

If you aren't in the mood to read the whole thing, here are George's highlighted 15 tips of riding. I've added text to some of the bullets where I think that clarification of George's point may be necessary. This text is taken directly from the article listed above.
  1. Create Impulsion - “The hind leg is where it starts,” he said. A rider breaks up resistance in the horse by encouraging his hind legs to come forward and under his body. When that happens, the horse’s croup starts to drop. Then the base of the neck, where it attaches to the shoulder, comes up. As a consequence, the horse’s head drops and he starts to round.
  2. Keep Him Straight - There are two types of straightness, he explained. The first is the bottom line of the horse. Does his left hind hoof fall into the print of his left fore and his right hind into the print of his right fore? Most horses naturally go in a little haunches-in. The second type of straightness is the horse’s topline, from the dock of the tail to his poll. On a straight line, the horse needs to be tracking straight, and on a circle, he must be bent in accordance with the curved line. Many riders overbend their horses, making them crooked, he said. He also reminded riders that to be straight, they first must feel a forward quality in their horses’ gaits.
  3. Carry the Hand - George taught this method to the riders throughout the week. For example, when one rider’s horse resisted, he told her to raise her hands, close her fingers and push with her leg. “You have to resist the horse’s resistance so the horse starts to accept contact.” When the horse softened in the mouth, George told the rider to be sure to give with her hands as a reward. He explained that many riders are taught to lower their hands if they feel resistance, “but that is rewarding the horse for disobedience.” 
  4. Make Every Transition Count
  5. Establish Rhythm with Cavaletti
  6. Supple with Lateral Work
  7. Spiral In and Out - To continue to supple the horses throughout their bodies, George had the riders spiral in on three circles at the canter. They used their outside legs to displace the horses’ haunches in while bending them around the inside legs. If a horse resisted, the rider could use a leading inside rein and an outside neck rein. When the horses relaxed a little, George said the riders could give slightly with their inside reins while the outside reins remained more solid. 
  8. Counter-canter to collect and Balance - “Self-carriage is where a horse holds himself, maintaining his own balance and impulsion,” George explained.
  9. Stay Straight on Flying Changes
  10. Lighten Up - Any time the riders asked for pace, such as when they were galloping or jumping, George encouraged them to be light on their horses’ backs with their hip angles closed and their upper bodies forward about 30 degrees. This allowed for a smoother and softer ride and kept them from disturbing their horses’ self-carriage.  
  11. Ride with Pace to the Base [of a jump]
  12. Practice What is Difficult
  13. Let Go out of the Turn - If you do this, he said, you’ll “measure the fence infinitely better.” If the horse is not listening to the half-halt or is cross-cantering by the time he reaches the turn’s apex, a rider needs to return home and practice—“that’s homework,” George said.  
  14. Keep Riding to a Difficult [Jump] Distance
  15. Stay Positive - When some horses had trouble and refused on the final day’s jumping course, George reminded the riders not to be tentative because a horse will sense that and question whether or not he should jump. “The relationship between horse and rider is closer than any two beings, even if you’re married,” he said, adding, “When a horse gets tentative, you don’t get tentative. That’s the kiss of death. … You get positive." 
Happy riding my friends :)


Friday, January 23, 2015

A new year with a new focus

"Hard work spotlights the character of people: some people turn up their sleeves, some people turn up their noses, and some people don't turn up at all."

I saw this on quote on an Instagram post by @officalaqha today while scrolling through the endless internet pages of photos of people riding their horses. I love Instagram, not so much for my abilities to gain followers and post photos, but for the inspiration that I gain from the photos of others chasing their dreams and doing what they love.

As a grown woman who is now graduated, married and working a "real" job, I've found myself in an endless struggle to balance my new role as wife, homemaker and equestrian. It's a struggle that I'm sure I am not the first, nor the last, to traverse alone. The ongoing question remains though: how do I do it?

I've spent my whole life "gearing up" for the next big thing; the next horse show, the next job, the next big life hurdle to tackle. Of course, previous to tying the knot with my husband, the only person that I really had to worry about was myself. Now, I have dishes to wash, dinner to make, and a house to clean. I have a job that I spent 9 hours a day at, working 8am-6pm at a vet clinic. At the end of the day, I find myself dreading even having to clean my horses stalls, let alone find the time to saddle them up and ride them.

While sitting on my lunch break today, I was on my cell phone, chatting with my friend S, lamenting over this very subject. S is getting ready to graduate from college, has two horses and works her tail off to pay her way in this world. Although she's still "independent" of a significant other, she still struggles with the same challenges that I find myself faced with: how do we excel with our horses and find the time to commit to aspiring to our dreams amidst the daily chaos of every day life?

I took a visit back in time tonight to try and reconnect with that spark of ambition that seemed to be so abundant in my youth. By paging back through old riding journals, blog entries and computer files, I found a few things that I think are inspirational enough to either revisit, or share for the first time with the general public. Many of these things revolve around date, he has been the most inspirational horse that I have ever worked with.

The excerpt below is from an article called "John Cooper on Fitness." I have no idea where I originally found it, so my sincere apologies for the lack of publishing credit. I'm sure that it came from some type of online article collection, such as or something similar. I've had the text copied into my computer for years. I still enjoy reading what the article has to say. This is just a small section of a six page document.

"Not only do you have to assess your horse but you need to be realistic about your own situation. If you work full time and you are preparing for a 3DE then you may decide to work your horse twice a day instead of one long session, which is hard to fit in either before work or at the end of the day.
For the actual canter work the terrain plays a big part. Most people like a hill as it is challenging enough to the horse's heart, lungs and muscles over a shorter distance, thereby putting less strain on the horse's legs. If you live in a flat area obviously you will have to do longer distances to equal the same amount of work.
When I was living in Hay, NSW, where there is not a hill in sight I managed to get horses fit for 3DE's by riding 6 miles before work, swimming them, usually at lunchtime, and then working them on the flat or jumping after work. Where there's a will there's a way, but what I wouldn't have given for just one hill."

Nice inspiration for the working adult rider, huh? Where there's a will, there IS a way.
The next expert is from this very blog, from February 25, 2010. It's amazing to think that I wrote this almost 5 years ago. You can search to that date to find the entire post. I like what I wrote here, I think that often times, as we progress as riders, we begin to think more in terms of facts and less in terms of feeling. Many of the problems that I encountered with Johnny were problems that I've run into again in other horses. He was such a different type of ride from Emmy...and each time I read back through my own musings over his training, I realize just how much my current horses actually take after him. It's difficult to break a lifetime of riding habits, but its important to remember that, the most effective riders are those who can put their horses into a position where they can perform to the best of their abilities.

'Form=Function: Finding the "Neutral Position"  
When I came to college and started riding with a different trainer, I began to understand more of the hunter aspect of position...of what she called a "neutral position" in which the rider did not interfere with the horse's natural movement and in doing so, allowed the horse to move freely underneath the rider. This was a concept that I understood well in theory, but could never quite transfer over to my rides with Johnny. Granted, I rarely rode Johnny under the watchful eye of trainer, and although I soon learned how to best influence his trot, I could not find the same happy medium in canter and I could rarely find it to a jump, because I rarely saw a distance on him. If I micro-managed, we chipped. If got into my half seat and left him alone, we went long. There seemed to be no in between. For a long time, I attributed it to his green-ness over fences. His own inability to judge the distance to the jump, his lack of athletic ability and maybe just lack of experience to adjust his stride. In reality, that was only part of the problem. The main problem was that I couldn't find that neutral balance where I could best let him do his job.'

And here is another, even older post from October 16, 2009...six years ago. I still remember the day that I made this realization, as simple and stupid as it seems, but it was like a light bulb came on in my never-ending journey as a horsewoman.

'And as I stood there watching Erin ride, I realized that there were a lot of things in life that Johnny had also never done. When I got him, he had never been ridden. He had never cantered, he had never jumped, he had never been clipped or shown or had his mane pulled and braided...

Who was I to say that this horse could and couldn't do?' 

So, while I sat at the folding table in the breakroom today, stirring my microwave macaroni and cheese with my cell phone pressed to my ear, I thought about all of these things. I thought about all of the research that I had done...the books and magazines I had read, the hours that I had spent pouring over internet articles and reading forums and blogs as I stumbled down the path of horsemanship. I thought about the late nights and early mornings that I spent at the barn, even after a long day working on the horse show circuit, to make sure that my horses got ridden...groomed...fussed over. I though about how I borrowed arenas and equipment to prepare for competition only to have jump refusals or meltdowns in the show ring. I thought about how much I had learned from those mistakes, how it pushed me to ride better, think clearer and come up with a better strategy. I thought about how often I used to video myself, even when there was no one around to help me, just so that I could critique my days ride. I thought about the extra ten minutes that I spent before each ride stretching Johnny or rubbing him down with liniment after...I thought about how much of a difference those extra minutes had made to his overall comfort, condition, and most importantly, our bond. And mainly, I thought about Cool and Gus, about the drive and the fire that still burns in my soul to see their training through to whatever end. 

Then and there I made myself a pact, that no matter what, I am going to make this up coming show season work for them. I don't know how...but I'm going find a way to make it work. I'll spend money smarter, I'll wake up a little earlier, I'll try a littler harder. Because at the end of the day, one certainty still rings true:

The will to win means nothing without the will to prepare.

Happy preparation my friends :)