A Year in Review: 2014

With Guinness solidly in the middle of coming back to work, I'm taking a close look at where we were training wise before the accident and time off. You know what that means... a Year in Review post!

After my trainer recommended I make some drastic changes with my saddle, I finally leapt and bought a new one. It fits Pig a little funny, but ends up working out okay in the end.
Hello new-to-me Cliff Barnaby AVG!
We also start doing double-day rides on Sundays to increase Pig's fitness and strength as we work towards putting together our 2nd level work. All the extra work is needed, as Snowmaggedon 2014 kept us from work for almost 19 days straight!

The month starts off with me stuck at home with sickness and asthma issues. Instead of getting down, I talk about working on a soft forward halt, something my December lesson had focused on. I also go on a sickness-related shopping spree and buy a sparkly browband. Whee!
When I finally get back to riding (again!), I work on improving the depth of my seat (especially on the right seatbone), increasing fluidity in lateral work, and run through 2nd 1 for the first time.

We keep marching towards 2nd level work by working on the walk/canter transition. At the same time, I look forward to my trainer's return from Florida. Guinness starts getting a little resistant in contact, and I have to abandon my training plans to give him the rides he needs to feel confident again. Also, spring comes...


This is a crazy month, with an early schooling show to prepare for. I complain about preparing for a show when your horse and dogs are getting winter hair all over everything. I also talk fitness, and how it helped me survive a tough first lesson back with my trainer. She pushes me to add more yoga to my schedule to increase hip flexibility.
We go to Heartland Schooling Show, where we show 1st 3 and 2nd 1. Pig loses his brains in the Friday night school, but comes out lovely on Saturday. Though the test scores don't show it, we make an okay debut at 2nd. I break down the tests and talk about tension causing stiffness and resistance in Guinness. In talking about shows, I also give you guys a glimpse into how I keep my dressage whites so bright.

This month life really gets busy. I talk about managing the thoroughbred attitude in a dressage horse, something I'll struggle with all summer. I also go to our only USDF show of the year, but don't manage to write about it until June. At Harmony in the Park, we manage a 60% at 2nd level, but still don't feel ready to keep showing for the season. The lesson I do learn is about the warm up before going in the ring.

I really hit a wall when it comes to working at 2nd level. All the tricks are there, but the collection work is not. My position is partly to blame, and I work on changing my seat with great results. We also work on installing a real half halt, something that we've improved but are still working on. The key is not to override my horse.

Finally, at the end of the month I take my drop noseband in to have it shortened. While it's gone, I have a lesson in a regular cavesson and it goes great. I feel good about my drop noseband not being a crutch.

I share photos of Chincoteague Island, and early ponies in my riding career. In the ring, we are still working on half halts, which I am trying to get from my seat instead of my hands. All that work shines a light on my horse's crookedness and how heavy he is on my right hand.

In addition to taking Pig to visit Jen for a long weekend, I also give Pig a vacation to himself and from throwing tantrums, which he's been doing all month.

After the tantrums of July, I start August by taking the pressure off. Of course this turns into some good rides, where I realize Pig's flexibility has finally improved. After watching a clinic with my trainer's trainer, I start utilizing "the lean" to get Pig to weight his reluctant back right leg.

I start riding a ton of other horses, mostly green TBs. This is good, because Pig develops an abscess that takes him out of work just in time for my lesson.

This month is nuts, and I basically blog about how we're working to improve the canter and then do a couple of massive catch up posts. Which includes a brief mention of our final schooling show of the year.

I end up riding bareback for awhile while Guinness gets over some scurfy nastiness. I believe the issue was actually due to shedding hair getting matted with sweat. Ultra gross. Halloween sales also prompt me to try to find a candy Guinness will enjoy eating, and we discover the joys of candy corn. This discovery leads to lots of productive rides with lots of foamy mouth.
Of course, the end of October also brought the mud season to Indiana, and Guinness starts suffering from mud and temperature related arthritis flare ups. I contemplate injections, but ultimately decide not to stress too much unless it gets worse. So far, it has not.
On the training front, I make the realization that I have more influence over how Guinness carries his neck than I thought. My newfound ability to lower his neck leads to more overall relaxation in our rides. Harmony is on the horizon!

I start the month by heading to Kentucky for my anniversary weekend. I enjoy the trip so much, I write four posts all about vacationing in KY. I write about the Keenland Breeding Sale; Beer, Bourbon, and Barrels; Keeping Everyone Happy; and Where to Stay & The KHP.
I get back to basics with Guinness, examining where we are on our dressage journey, and end up also describing my methodical warm-up process. All of this, plus a month of great rides, has me feeling ready to start acclimating Pig to the double bridle, which goes smoother than expected.
Thinking about the double bridle has me considering whether expensive bits are really worth their pricetag, At the same time, I check out my trainer's trainer in a clinic, and get some great tidbits to share.
Also in November, I share photos from an equestrian show that performed at my work, and I shave another Guinness harp into Guinness' haunch.

I start the month off by talking about how inside-leg to outside-rein can sometimes get turned on its head in training. I also talk about developing a better canter as preparation for teaching Pig his changes. Much of the month is devoted to complaining about the weather, and the weather-related arthritis issues.
The end of the month sees Guinness and I involved in a horrible trailering accident. Luckily the posts between the accident and the end of the year are reasonably upbeat and happy updates.

Whew. What a year. Goodbye 2014! Bring on 2015!!


  1. What a year indeed! I'm popping back to some of your old posts as I read this to glean more information on how you've tackled some hurdles and come to realizations on how to fix them. Love learning from others! (Especially as I pursue more dressage work in this new year.)

    Cheers to a healthy, happy, fun 2015!

    1. Aw yesss! More dressage converts! ;) This year is probably the one where I learned the most about training, fixing problems, and being a more effective and sympathetic rider. The learning process kind of sucked, though. Hopefully something I said makes it easier for you!

  2. it's been a huge year in a lot of ways for you two - i've really enjoy following (and have learned a TON!!). so glad things look to be almost back on track following the accident - good luck in 2015!!

    1. Thanks so much! I'm glad someone else is picking things up from my writing. Putting all that training stuff into words really helps me figure it out!

  3. Replies
    1. Ha! Thanks! Hopefully it translates to a more successful one next year!

  4. A big year in a lot of ways! Mostly I'm just thankful ya'll are both okay after the accident.

    1. Oh man. Me too. That was the best Christmas miracle, ever.

  5. What a year, I'm sure all your wonderfully insightful hard work will pay off for a fab 2015.
    Looking forward to following & living vicariously through your awesomeness

  6. You guys had a crazy year!! Your posts are always so insightful, and I always learn from them. I hope you keep that up in 2015!!

    1. Aw! Thanks! I feel like we trade the knowledge! :)

  7. Busy busy year!! :D I still can't get over how cute he looks in his double bridle! <3

    1. Me either! I can't wait until his own is all put together! Almost there! Just waiting for my trip to Florida to finish out the bit shopping!

  8. Wow you accomplished a lot in 2014! Bravo! I'm so glad you both are okay after the accident. That sounds like it must have been absolutely terrifying!

    1. It really was. It'll be something I'll never forget.


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