Guinness! Focus! We've got a lot of work ahead. I'm going to need to to put in extra hours, you know. Maybe work a few weekends ... 

The first of January was certainly "kick my butt into training" time! I spent the last two weeks really working on formulating a plan for the upcoming year, and visualizing the path to achieving my goals. It feels good, and I love having tangible goals to work towards.

This week:

I took a master class on dressage basics from a stirrupless George Morris. Learned a lot about consistency in the hand and not being too active. Guinness responded well ... most of the time. I highly suggest watching the videos (especially the flatwork videos). Dressage riders, eventers AND jumpers all have something to learn here.
Things I picked up?
    • YOU decide your rein length, and the horse has to work with it. He doesn't get to have an opinion here. While I knew this, hearing it just now made a big difference in my riding. I've shortened my reins, asked Guinness to deal and really worked towards making the rest of my position sympathetic and following. BIG difference.
    • Keep your hands up! Hunterland instilled a love for putting my hands in my lap. BAD AUSTEN! I've been working on keeping thumbs up, hands up and elbows back. Nancy will be so proud! I've also been working on the idea of "connecting your elbows to your hips with elastic" or, the idea of following your horse with your elbows, not your hands or arms. YES. It's hard. I tend to shove my elbows where I know they are supposed to be and lock them there. This idea of elastic really helps me follow. Watching George and Ann's elbows and hands move with their horse gave me an example of what I'm looking for. Thanks!
     • Your horse's head is crooked? Don't worry about it. Worry about putting his BODY where you want it, the head will follow eventually. This is something I'm REALLY guilty of. Guinness will tilt his head to avoid taking outside contact. Instead of pushing him over and controlling his haunches, I fiddle with the contact trying to get him to move into it. NO! I'm trying to stop this. Instead, when he tilts his head, I'm doing a haunches in to shoulder in or spiraling on a circle. I'm working on making sure he understands that my legs control his butt. It's slowly sinking in, but I've noticed that he tends to actually straighten his head and neck when I force him to use himself behind. It's not rocket science, but it's just starting to become second nature.
Remember, kids. Watch the videos. Here's the link:

Guinness had his portrait taken. A conformation shot, just to make sure he's on track with muscle development and weight management. You guys are familiar with his weight struggles in the winter. This year, he's kept the weight on, gained muscle and managed to actually put on topline in places he's never had it before. I'm feeling like a proud mama. Those upper butt muscles, flat muscled back and neck are really making me feel pretty good about my training and where we're headed!
Check those nice round butt muscles. Someone's been using himself! (Conformation photos are deceptively hard to take. For example? Guinness has a head the size of a jackhammer in this photo.)

I read a blog by Lauren Sprieser where she talks about staying cool in training. This reminds me to stop picking fights with Guinness and overracting when he rears the drama llama (Like he did last Wednesday. I overreacted ... oops). Putting this into practice is hard, but I've been pulling from my rides on other horses. It's easy to stay cool when you aren't emotionally invested in the animal you're working with. I've been pulling that feeling over to my rides with Guinness. Just cooling trying different approaches until we hit on what works. It makes the whole ride feel better, and it's easier to get good results. Word to the wise? Stop fighting with your horse. Seriously.

In my dreams this week, I imagined what it would be like to have unlimited funds to purchase every lovely chestnut thoroughbred in the world, just to see how far they'll go. This guy is at the top of my list. Despite being an approved adopter with them, I just don't have the funds for #2 right now. SOMEONE go get this guy, though. He's gorgeous, and I want to watch him!

Weekends are all about time management for me. I spend a lot of time at the barn during the day (what self-respecting horse girl doesn't?), so I like to get an early start. Usually I aim for being at the barn by 9 or so and heading out by 3. Lots of riding, grooming, and chatting are going on. This week I was counting myself lucky for being a morning person. That allowed me to be done at the barn on Sunday just before a huge ice storm rolled through. Yay mornings!
Early weekend morning! Yay?
And finally, I managed to secure a cooler for Guinness. After months of using my (absolutely AMAZING) Rambo quarter sheet as a cooler (using it on the quarters during the ride, then moving it to the sweaty neck afterwards), I'm glad to have a full body sheet. It matches our quarter sheet too! Awesomeness! Nothing looks better on a chestnut than gold Newmarket stripes. I'm convinced. Look how handsome:
Newmarket Stripe for the horse who was bred right down the road! Yay Suffolk-bred Thoroughbreds!

That's all for now, folks!


  1. Guinness looks great - very buff! You need a jacket to match his cooler :)


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