First Plan of 2019: Meh

In my Plans for 2019 post, I mentioned that our first big plan was a clinic/lesson with Gary Mittleider. This was our first lesson with an instructor other than Sarah. Going into the lesson I was feeling pretty good about things? I mean, I know June is a green baby but I figured we’d be ok with what was asked of us.

But then the lesson I had prior to this clinic put me in a horrible head space. June and I have struggled with the canter going right. In this particular lesson I COULD NOT GET THE RIGHT LEAD. Like, it wasn’t happening. Left- lovely. Right-unattainable. We worked and worked and nothing. To the point where Sarah said “I don’t know how you feel but do you want” and I yelled “YES” knowing that she was kindly asking if maybe she should hop on June and try. Not surprisingly she got the correct lead immediately.

This was tough for me. Not because I was surprised, I mean Sarah is a pro with lots of experience on baby horses. But because this was the first thing I was absolutely unable to do. And it was clearly completely my issue. I MAY have broken down a little post lesson and may have said “Why am I even starting this horse? I’m ruining her!” Dramatic? Yes. But I was feeling like shit and, well, maybe head space when starting a baby horse should be a blog post of its own.

So, I knew, going into the clinic with Gary, that the right lead canter was perhaps going to be an issue. But I decided to not worry about it. So many other things to work on! Right lead canter may not even come up. Cause, you know, there are so many times in clinics when you only go left. Uh huh.


This was the fakest smile I have ever produced

For me, the toughest part about riding in clinics is that you are part of a group. Therefore, if something isn’t going well, or needs work, you can’t just stop the planned exercise and work on that one thing. There are other people in the group who can’t not progress with the exercise because of one horse. So, lesson number 1? We’re probably not ready for a group lesson. This exercise was advanced for where June and I are currently, and therefore, we really struggled. And instead of just working on what we were struggling with (which was a multitude of things) we would kind of just move on and make it work, and IMO that’s not really beneficial.

To start the lesson, Gary had us trot a ground pole on the right side of the arena, turn left, pick up the canter, and canter over a ground pole on the other side. Lovely, simple, and straightforward. But, June was SO distracted by the ghost at the north end of the arena that when we trotted the ground pole, she then spooked right and as Gary was yelling “Straight Line!” we were trotting like drunken sailors. I picked up the canter, got her to stop looking out, and instead look to the upcoming ground pole and we cantered to it. And then June decided she needed to show off a wee bit.


Yeah yeah June, you’re super impressive

But what was worse was that she landed, and instead of coming back to the trot, just grabbed the bit and kept cantering. So, we got reprimanded for that. And did the exercise again. Again, unable to go straight after the ground pole, but this time we did just canter over the other one, and we did come back to the trot, even though it didn’t look pretty.

After the other rider went, he asked us to do the same exercise, but going right. We were ok over the ground pole at the trot and then picked up the wrong lead; Gary hollered just to keep going. And she did this AGAIN.


If she would just listen to me, we could actually get to jumping things meant to be jumped

So, June was distracted and a bit eager for most of the lesson which was not helping. We did that line well enough (although always on the wrong lead) that Gary did set a couple of tiny jumps. And, well, things didn’t get better.

June ran at the jumps, and I wasn’t getting her to adjust at all. She was spooky and distracted which was making everything I was asking that much harder. At one point, things really just started to unravel. We  would start by going left, and then change rein through the middle of the arena. We were asked to pick up the right lead canter, make a sharp right turn and jump a tiny jump.

It was all fine until we would change rein and get ready to canter. There were horses tied up on the inside of the arena and I knew that if I got too close to them June would probably kick them. So now, I’m trying to pick up the correct lead, which I hadn’t done once in 45 minutes, turn, AND jump.

It got worse and worse. We never got the correct lead, and trying to turn your unbalanced green horse on the wrong lead, to a jump on about a 15 meter circle? Not gonna happen. At least with this team.


This picture gives me anxiety

And it ended up looking like this


Do you see me kicking like a Pony Club D1??


June was done. She would stop about two strides out and NOT GO FORWARD. So, we took another break. And I would love to tell you that it was all unicorns and perfection after that, but it wasn’t. Gary was great- he probably was as frustrated with the lesson as I was, but he chatted with me for a while afterwards and kept reminding me that the most important thing to have when you’re riding a baby horse- is a sense of humor. Mine was lost about 15 minutes into the lesson unfortunately.

We agreed that having Sarah ride June and get the right lead canter solid was a good idea. Lucky for me, Sarah likes June. Even better, she was willing to let me take her to dinner and construct a plan for June’s immediate future. I was pretty much ready just to give June to Sarah, but instead, we agreed on a training plan, and I think it’ll work out really well. We’ll both be riding her, but I’ll be working on refining what June already knows and she’ll help the progression to new things and getting June to really understand what is being asked of her.  I’m really lucky to have such an incredible trainer and friend.

So, 2019 plans didn’t start off with a bang. But that’s ok- baby horses will never make things a linear path. Actually, horses never make things a linear path. I still love this mare so incredibly much, and I’m hopeful we’ll be less frustrated with each other after a little reprieve.


Weather has been so nice she got to enjoy a blanket free romp in the snow!



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23 thoughts on “First Plan of 2019: Meh

  1. That sounds really rough. Sorry the clinic did not go according to plan. At least the clinician seemed to understand it was the dynamic going on with a baby horse rather than yelling at you or demeaning you in front of the other riders. I do love how enthusiastic and over achieving June was over the ground poles though. “Look, I can jump!!! I’m a big girl too!”


  2. Niamh O'Connell says:

    Oh gosh what a tough clinic for you guys! Thanks for sharing the good, bad and the ugly though! I struggle a lot with right lead stuff because of my own crookedness and I could feel your pain in this situation! Sounds like you have a solid plan going forward:)

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Emma says:

    ugh i’m sorry 😦 i think the hardest thing about the green horse journey is that, well, expectations are extremely challenging bc we don’t ever really know what to predict. there’s no baseline there, no historical context. and they change so fast! good for you for working through it the best you could, but i wish for your sake that it had gone better or at least felt better!

    my first “clinic” experience with charlie was kinda a major bust too, and ended with the clinician basically jogging alongside us, holding the reins and essentially riding the horse for me from the ground while i kinda just sat there kicking. it was not the educational experience i had wanted, but it *did* give me a lot of food for thought on how i continued moving forward. sounds like this lesson gave you similar insights. so i guess that’s a silver lining, even if it’s kinda cold comfort?? ugh horses so hard tho….


  4. KC Scott says:

    I’m sorry- I know the exact feeling of being all, “You know what I want, horse,” then having a pro get on and accomplish what you’ve been unable to. It’s frustrating for sure.

    Clinics give me the heebie jeebies. I’ve participated in a few and we’ve been both the standout Rockstar of the group, and we’ve also been the losers of the group. Now I enjoy auditing them, but personally, the clinic format is not the best for my horse and I.

    I have to say the pictures of June jumping the ground poles are impressive! P still jumps ground poles- I’m jealous of those whose horses quietly canter over them because my horse always takes them like they’re 3′ oxers. If you can find the magic formula, let me in on it!


    • nadsnovik says:

      I’m so on the fence about clinics. And have been in the same position- shining star or total failure. And really, my private lessons with my instructor are so much more beneficial.
      And having Sarah ride June will clearly solve all our problems, lol. But I am excited to see what she’s capable of!


  5. Ugh, I’m sorry that this didn’t work! Baby horses are definitely tough, and it’s so hard to ride the line between enthusiasm and listening. Like, yes horse I love your enthusiasm but let’s also listen lol. I’m glad tho that you do have someone like Sarah who is such a good friend!


  6. I hope you don’t take this the wrong way at all, but I did something very similar when I first got my green mare as well.

    For our VERY FIRST show I decided “Hey let’s do TL instead of Walk/Trot” and it was a fricken DISASTER. Couldn’t get the right leads, she was tense/nervous, and ended up exiting the ring.

    It’s SO frustrating, but remember it DOES get better ❤ Sometimes we put our horses into situations they aren't ready for, and it really frazzles them. And there is nothing wrong with June acting the way she was – she is just a baby. It's hard tho, bc we feel like clinics aren't "that scary" and that the questions asked aren't "that hard". I've done it too with Annie, and I've left a few clinics and shows VERY disappointed.

    Hugs to you tho, I know how fricken hard it is when things don't go to plan. You ARE doing a good job with her, remember that.


    • nadsnovik says:

      No offense taken! It’s definitely a learning curve and as solid as June is, she’s still a baby! And I agree- I was like “this will be no big deal!” But now I’m like, huh, we’re still using placing poles and transitions before every jump- so that WAS a big deal.
      Always easier in hindsight!


  7. martidoll123 says:

    Baby horses are the WORSE and the best at the same time. She is going to have her moments and unfor it was when you had a clinic. I am glad the instructor understood. Some sure dont UGH…..

    She looks cute even with pony club kick and overjumping…poles 🙂 LOLLOL hey at least you are out there doing it! 🙂


  8. Liz says:

    UGH. I have anxiety for you reading about all of the drama. I’m so very sorry the day went that way! Thank goodness for Sarah and Gary’s patience and understanding though. And at least June is still cute even when she’s being a complete shitbag!


  9. nadsnovik says:

    Ha ha! Yes everyone was very kind! And I don’t think June meant to be difficult.. was probably an unfair position to put her in in hindsight…


  10. I have definitely been here before and it is the pits.

    But it sounds like good has come of it and you now have a very solid plan with which to help you move forward, so that’s a silver lining if I have ever seen one!


  11. Alanna says:

    Ahh…that’s no fun. I’m glad you have a plan moving forward. Hang in there!


  12. L. Williams says:

    I mean in the end you found your sense of humor and your Trainer is a great friend to bolster you through the rockier times.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Ugh that’s so sucky! When you kind of have your heart stuck on this positive experience and then the wheels come off a little. It sounds like you did what you could in the situation and I think that long term June will still turn out lovely!


  14. carey says:

    Ugh, I’m behind, but catching up now. I can feel your frustration in that lesson. Glad Gary was supportive and that you’ve got an awesome trainer/friend to help with the sticky stuff.

    Liked by 1 person

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