Category Archives: horses

Alone Time

If you read my blog and that of SprinklerBandits you may get the feeling we have two of the most amazing, lovely, easy as can be, young horses. And, while I actually think this is true of Zoebird, I’m going to let you in on a secret about June. She isn’t perfect.

I know, you’re shocked.

I will say, before talking about all the things she needs work on, that she is actually a great baby. When she knows what is expected of her, she is happy as can be to do what I am asking. I’ve had few problems with her in work actually, most of the baby moments seem to be happening when we are just standing. This mare CANNOT just stand.

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But she’s so cute when she’s in my space!

Now, I know that’s pretty normal for young horses. I thoroughly enjoyed Amanda’s post about the Tree of Knowledge. June needs a Tree of Knowledge, or a Thinking Pole, or whatever else you want to call it, SO BADLY. Baby horse cannot stand tied, or next to me, for more than 3 seconds without beginning to paw incessantly. It used to be only when I left her alone. But yesterday, as I was talking to a woman who has worked lots and lots of baby horses, June got right in my space and then just started dancing and pawing in the 10 seconds I was speaking with this woman. Let’s just say that didn’t go over well and maybe I was called out for letting her do that. (There are very few people I will allow to question my baby horse training, this woman is one of them). June got an impromptu lesson on just standing still. And I began to hunt the farm for somewhere, anywhere, that I can high tie June.

Our other issue is that she really doesn’t like to be alone. At all. So, I’ve been forcing alone time on her. Sometimes I stick her out in the outdoor arena, where she can see other horses, but she still gallops around whinnying and has a fit. Other times she goes into the high sided roping arena, where she gallops around and has a fit. The first time I stuck her out on grass, she had a fit and missed out on enjoying her pasture time.

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Mom, please save me from this hell

She’s getting better. Which is good. But there is still a bit of a struggle every time I put her out and leave her. Which, she will have to get over, because I have plans for her this fall that involve travelling by herself.

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Also, in an exciting twist, these two have become besties, but more on that later…

I keep reassuring myself that this is just baby horse antics and ALL MOST baby horses act like they’re wearing hind boots for the first time EVERY TIME YOU PUT THEM ON FOR 1 MONTH. I have a lesson this Thursday and while I am eager to show Sarah all our skillz under saddle, I also can’t wait to ask her about 100,000 questions about certain behaviors I am working on with June and if my approach seems to make the most sense.

So there you go, June isn’t exactly perfect. But she’s still my most favorite baby horse ever.

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Habits

Since I’m not doing much riding with June just yet I’ve taken the opportunity to ride a couple of the lesson horses at our barn. Mostly I just hop on them when Sarah is out of town and they’re not being used for lessons, but could use some exercise. No matter which horse I ride, my habits are right there with me. It’s nice because I can work on them. Work on my position and try, desperately, to break my bad habits.

There’s one habit that follows me on whatever horse I ride and quite honestly, I am not willing to break it. It’s a habit I actually think has served me very well over the years.

You see, I talk to horses.

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What’s that you say? I have hay in my forelock?

When I’m on their back, I’m a talker. Like, not all the time, but a fair amount. It served me really, really, well with Georgie. For one thing, when we started going Training, and neither of us had jumped cross country at that height, I could have been up on her back, just not breathing. Instead, I made sure I was breathing by talking to her as we cruised around. There were lots of “good girl” and “woah” and sometimes me blithering on about what was next. It kept me breathing but it also kept her engaged with me. I’d see her ear flick back. As time went on, it was totally routine. When we were out on course together, I was always communicating with her. I actually think she really enjoyed it. It seemed to be what she expected and it relaxed her a bit.

Ingrid Klimke actually spoke in an interview about how she is constantly talking to her horse while she is out on cross country. And while I can’t find the interview, I remember she made fun of herself a bit, referencing the fact that she is not a quiet rider. Instead people are surprised to hear her talking as her horses fly over jumps. Her reasoning is much the same as mine.  Think about it, we’re ALWAYS talking to our horses. We’re asking them to move over, get out of the way. We cluck at them, ask them to whoa, and tell them how amazing they are. They’re used to our voices.

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One of our ridiculous barn cats

With June, so much of our relationship is based on verbal communication. She is so used to my voice. And, now that I am riding her a bit, I’m teaching her what “woah”means as well as what a “cluck” means. I assume my habit of talking to her while I am on her back isn’t going to stop as we progress in our training.

With the school horses I ride, if they offer a good behavior, they’re sure to get a “good boy.” If they spook at seemingly nothing, they get a “Seriously?” But they also get lots of verbal reinforcement as we go about the ride.

It’s a habit I can’t see myself changing, and one I’m actually quite happy I’ve got. What about you? Are you verbal with your horses when riding? Or do you tend to be the silent type?

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It’s All Good

So, before I wax on and on about June, let me say this. She isn’t actually perfect. She can be pushy and impatient and sometimes tries my patience. She has serious opinions and I know I am not getting a quiet, easy, horse.

But, that said, she’s pretty amazing.

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I mean, the cutest!

The best part (in my opinion) about baby horses, is that everything is new. There is no having to retrain them, so when they pick up on something, you’re like “OMG YOU’RE THE SMARTEST HORSE EVER!!” Because, they are learning much more quickly than you’d expect. Or, at least, than I would expect.

Last week I had my first lesson on June. It was the first time I rode her in a saddle and it was the first time she was ridden outside of the round pen. She was good, in that she would woah 80% of the time and go about 80% of the time when asked. She would get a little confused, and we’d let her work it out, but she definitely needed some direction and guidance.

Three days later I rode her again, this time in the round pen, since I was alone and she wouldn’t have someone guiding her. She remembered most of what we had done and was so much more responsive. Her woah was much more solid as was her go. She even turned! I was blown away!

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Getting her to accept ANYTHING on her hind legs has been a work in progress and probably our biggest struggle. But now she lets me put on boots without any fuss. One day we’ll try for shipping boots. One day.

And then today we did some groundpole work on the lunge line. Did she do everything perfectly every time? Nope. But she was willing and learned and figured out so much on her own. I didn’t always give her the best line to the poles and it was ok, she would trot through them and get it done. And at the end, when I gave her the option of hopping over an 18″ jump, she happily showed me that this was all a piece of cake.

I feel as though once we get a solid partnership, one where we both trust and understand each other, the sky is going to be the limit. I leave today for a cross-country adventure with Peekaboo, and I know I will miss this baby horse so much. It’s so fun to be excited to go the barn every day. Even if all our homework is just to lead from the right side, or get her comfortable with walking by the ditch on the property. Baby horses are the BEST. Or, at least that’s how I am feeling this week 🙂

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Georgie’s New Beginning

I’ve been meaning to post about Georgie for some time now. But June has kept me busy and filled with content. So, here is the update you’ve all been waiting for. 🙂

I spent much of March riding Georgie, assessing soundness while I asked more of her and got her fitter. The hope was that she would be able to be half leased by a junior rider and she would be able to handle the increased level of work. During the month I went from questioning Georgie’s future to feeling comfortable with her going into work again. It’s amazing what some fitness work and consistency can do for a horse.

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She still refuses to pose for pictures. EVER

When Sarah returned from California the beginning of April I could confidently say I felt Georgie would enjoy getting back to work and doing 2′ to 2’3 jumping with a junior. Sarah had the perfect student in mind and, well, now they’re paired up and Georgie is being half leased.

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Obviously this is hard and weird and sad for me. But don’t worry, I put some stipulations in the lease (cause I can do that, as her caregiver, I guess) and it states in the lease that either Sarah or I can ride the mare once a week to assess soundness (or give her a tune up ride). Despite how strong and sound she was feeling in March, I still worried that the mare would have issue with being ridden regularly. But having ridden Georgie this past week, I can lay those worries to rest. She felt great. I took her for a walk/trot and then just let her gallop, because she was begging me too. It felt great to be back on her and feeling her want to gallop.

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Plus we got to ride with Tommy , who happens to be Georgie’s boyfriend

And while sure, this ride was supposed to be for Georgie, it helped me so much too. When I ride/work with June, I have to be thinking all the time. There’s never really any down time. It was the same with Macy. With Georgie I could just relax and enjoy it. Letting her gallop around the field reminded me why I love riding so much. Why a partnership with a horse is such a special thing.

I still hope June has half the heart Georgie does. I love watching her new rider love on her and I hope she appreciates just how special a horse she is. I’m so glad she is still at my barn, still in Sarah’s care, and that I’m able to watch over her and ride her as well. Oh, and as an added bonus, she is housed right next to June. She has already figured out that for every treat June gets, she gets one too.

So, here’s to a great new life for Georgie, and her teaching another rider just how special a horse she is.

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Actual Pics of Me on June

So, I realize I was all “I’m not going to ride June until she’s 4” and that is still 2 months away. But baby horse has progressed so far and well with her ground work, I was kinda like “Well, its time to hop on her.”

So one day I did just that. Sarah saw me walking her out to the round pen with my helmet in my hand and just said “Let me know when you’ve safely dismounted.” I figured the less of a deal I made about it, the less of a deal it would be.

So, I worked her in the round pen and she was her fantastic self.

I sided her up to the rail, and played around with throwing a leg over her, and putting some weight on her back. Then I removed her rope halter, put my other halter with reins attached to it  on her, and brought her back over to the rail.(I don’t have a side pull and #stellasurgery prevents me from buying ANYTHING not absolutely necessary).

I sided her up, and slid on. We stood there for a moment or two. Then we walked around the round pen a few circles, worked on turning, and called it a day.

It was the least dramatic and most exciting thing ever.

A few days later I decided to try again. This time I worked on shifting my weight a bit when we were walking and asking her to woah. She got that figured out quickly, so we did some more walking around and turning. With lots of just looking around and hanging out.

And on Kentucky 3 Day cross-country day, I decided to take a risk myself, and have her walk around the property with two other horses.

She was great! At one point, we were leading, and I asked the other two riders if they wouldn’t mind taking the lead since we don’t really know what we’re doing and they were like “But you have the best behaved horse!”

Apparently I picked the wrong two horses to go hack with.

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They were fun to ride with and DID end up taking the lead…

June got a little tight in her back on the way home, and I could tell she was feeling a bit frisky as we made the last turn to home. So, instead of making a big issue of it, I hopped off, turned her away from home and had her walk over some ground poles and a log that were set up in the jump field. The other two horses left and she was fine with it. I then hand walked her back to the barn with no issue.

I should note that I was riding bareback in running leggings and sneakers. If things had gone sideways I would have fallen off easily. But June hasn’t been ridden in a saddle since she’s been back, and I didn’t want to introduce that the day we went out of the round pen. I have my first lesson with her Thursday so I’ll be putting a saddle on her once or twice before that lesson (I have been doing this all along) so that when I get on her for that lesson she is at least comfortable with the saddle and remembers it’s no big deal.

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So many pics of her trotting…I know

The groundwork I’ve done with her has done exactly what I wanted. I’m so confident around her on the ground and feel like I know her so well, despite only having had her in my care for 5 months. I’ve learned so much about her and am really loving the horse I have. If she understands the question, she tries her hardest. It’s when she doesn’t understand that she “acts out.” And even her acting out is short lived and quite minimal. When she acts out, my first question is always “what doesn’t she understand?” And I LOVE trying to figure it out with her. She’s been forgiving of my training flaws and seems eager to see me when I come to her paddock.

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First IG pic of me on her back

That said, she’s got a strong personality and opinions. I need to work on things like her getting in my space and being a bit more responsive, but she’s still young and I think those things will refine themselves with work and time. I’m excited to start working with her and Sarah so I can have homework and continue in the right direction.

The other day Sarah said to me “Remember, she’s only in kindergarten,” and that really struck a chord. Kindergartener’s have a short attention span, they have temper tantrums, and they can be easily scared by harsh teaching. On the other hand, they’re curious, eager and very forgiving of what life throws at them. For June, I think exposing her to new things continues to be of the utmost importance as well as “having conversations” about what is expected of her. I’m looking forward to going slow with her, letting her tell me when she is ready for the next challenge. I think this mare has lots of potential and I can’t tell you how excited I am about the partnership progressing and for her to show me what she is capable of!

 

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June’s First Week Back

I really can’t express how impressed I am with this mare since she has been back.

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So pretty!

I figured in her first week we would take it a bit easy, and on Day 2 I brought her in for grooming and she was great.  I then put her in the round pen to see what, if anything, she remembered. Mare was 100% game and not only did she remember things, she had an attitude of “ok, now what would you like?” I’d had an issue with her not wanting to be caught  from her field last summer and so Trainer Dana had me work on teaching her to come towards me when I opened my arms, with lunge whips in each hand. If she went sideways I’d keep her from going anywhere with the whip. If she squared to me, I’d slink a little, avoid eye contact and invite her to come towards me. One step forward and pressure was released, I backed up as she came forward. It worked amazingly well, despite my  not believing it would and June never had an issue with being caught again.

On this day, I thought I’d see if she remembered any of that. I only had one whip, but I opened my arms, took a step back and June walked right up to me.

I think the best decision I made was to send her to Trainer Dana prior to letting her rest all winter. Clearly she has retained that info and is ready to move forward.

Day 3 she got off because Stella had surgery and I was in Boise. I took advantage of being unable to work her and had her get her spring vaccinations.

Day 4 we did a little round pen work, a little grooming, and then I took her to the obstacle course. As always with her, if she understands the question, she is game to do her darndest. In a few instances I got in front of her shoulder, which she thinks means whoa and we had some difficulty walking over the bridge or teeter totter. But she did everything I asked, when I asked correctly, and  her favorite is still climbing on the tires.

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What’s the big deal, mom?

Day 5 it was lunging in the indoor arena. I decided to throw some trot poles down as well as the liverpool. I walked her up to the liverpool and we walked over it with zero hesitation. This was a physically demanding day for an unfit pony. Lots of trotting, walking and trotting over the liverpool on the lunge line, and figuring out where her feet are through the trot poles. I could tell she was getting tired when she stopped and looked at me. I urged her forward and she literally threw her head and squealed! Then totally trotted forward. I appreciate the sass almost as much as how quickly she acquiesced.

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I like to watch her trot…

Day 6 she got her teeth floated. And I took advantage of the drugs and trimmed her bridle path, fetlock feathers and butchered her tail a bit. Whoops!

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She’s kinda a lightweight

Day 7 I brought her into the indoor and we worked on standing politely while being groomed, she wore front shipping boots and hind xc boots and we walked around. She was not happy about the rear boots so I left them on while I saddled her and walked her around the barn with her saddle on and stirrups swinging around. She didn’t protest about any of it.

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More tires, please?

I’m pleasantly surprised by how much she grew up this winter and how great her attitude is. We’ll begin taking lessons in May, so in the meantime I plan on just de-sensitizing her to as much as possible and getting her fit enough to begin work under saddle. It’s been great having her back, she brings much needed happiness to each day.  I’m thinking this will be a fun summer together!

 

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She’s Home!

This was a week where I could use something to make me happy. And leave it to my baby horse to help me with the task.

For those of you who kindly commented on my Fraggle Friday post, Stella is doing ok, but this week will be one of decisions, I’ll keep you posted on her for sure. We’re not out of the woods by any means

But this is a horse blog, so for now, lets talk about the baby horse!

Sarah and I went and picked up Desi and June Saturday and the trip was completely uneventful. Which is exactly what you want when you are hauling young horses! They both loaded up into the trailer with no issues. Then ate all their hay for the 5 hour journey.

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So curious at the stop for fuel!

When we got home the wind was at hurricane level, but both horses unloaded calmly and June went right into her stall and began to munch even more hay. When I left her she was like “see ya mom, I got hay to eat.”

Exactly the kind of reaction I would want for a horse that just had the most stressful day she’s had in 5 months. ❤

Media is not good, and I apologize. But baby horse had been experiencing mud season and looked it. So, I let her run around prior to grooming and was hoping I could take shots from far enough away that her filth wouldn’t be as obvious.

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I trotted her around a bit and then brought her in and groomed her. Her manners were still in place, but she got bored about 20 minutes in and began pawing. Instead of making a huge fuss I just untied her, had her move her feet, re tied her and got on with it. She looks much better now and tomorrow we’ll get to some real work.

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She’s grown a little, and greyed a lot. Is that a word? You know what I mean…

I’m just over the moon to have her back, and over the moon with how sensible she was on the trailer and her first day back. I’m so excited to get started with her and see what our future holds. Be prepared for more media and lots of June spam.

I do want to take a moment and give a shout out to my good friend Haley and her horse Tommy. You may remember that I rode him last winter and learned a ton. He was such a different ride for me and I struggled, but he was such a good boy and very patient with me. Tommy had been a rock star at Prelim and Haley just moved up to Intermediate with him at Galway, last week. They rocked around like total pros. She’s an inspiration to me and I am so thrilled with how far their partnership has come. It’s fun when a friend succeeds after lots of hard work. June and I are eager to have half their accomplishments.

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Go rock stars!

Here’s to new beginnings with June and hopefully an incredibly fun season!

 

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Groundpoles Graduate

Macy and I graduated from groundpoles.

I know. Stop the press, who would have thought it’d happen?

Trainer Sarah invited me to have a group jump lesson, just the two of us, and I said “Sure!”

And then immediately regretted the decision as vision of Macy being unrideable danced through my head.

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Macy contemplating her level of rideability pre ride

But I showed up, watched as Trainer Sarah started to set up a grid and started to feel like maybe we could do this.

Warm up went well, just a few pointers to help me get Macy more supple and bending around my inside leg and then we were onto jumping.

The grid was set up off a tight turn, so Macy really had to be supple and bending or we would not get through the grid well. It was 5 fences set at one stride apart, so it was definitely a good gymnastic exercise. If Macy wanted to plow through it, she would be unpleasantly surprised, but my job as a rider was to let her make the mistake and learn from it.

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She just looks so happy when she’s jumping

Not so surprisingly, been around the block mare had zero issues with the grid. I really worked on my corner approaching it, circling a time or two if she wasn’t as supple as I wanted, and things went really, really well.

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Trainer Sarah did have to keep reminding me to “stretch up,” it’s a gird after all, I needed to ride in a bit more of a defensive position. I learned why the second time through, when Macy tripped, I fell forward and the brim of my helmet slammed into her neck. I felt everything in my neck crack. Not sure it was the adjustment I wanted.

But, after that I kept my face and chest away from her body.

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As the grid built up it became a great exercise for both of us, and I kinda gotta say it restored my confidence that I can in fact ride this mare. Also, doing my homework has helped. What I’ve been working on over groundpoles really helps me focus on where she needs to be ALL THE TIME.

Need some short video evidence?

So yay for a graduation! It’s about damn time!

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100 Transitions

In her blog  Viva Carlos, L. mentions that she did 100 transitions with her horse Dante during a walk/trot ride. My immediate thought was “100 transitions???? Is she crazy?” But then, I was like “Hmm, I wonder what that would be like?”

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Exactly what I look like…

On my next ride, there I was, aiming to purposely do 100 transitions while I rode Macy.

And here’s what I found:

This was great for both of our brains. Macy tends to get a little “work, work, routine, routine” and doing lots of transitions kept her on her toes. I was worried she would get tense, trying to anticipate what was next, or never getting to do something for a long period of time, but we actually had a really lovely, really relaxed ride.

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Sideways ears are an indication of relaxation on this mare

Here’s the deets you want to know as you contemplate 100 transitions:

  1. Can you really count to 100 while you ride and remember what number you’re on? Yes, yes you can. Cause if I can do it, you can too. Sure, I may have missed a number and not been sure if I was on 67 or 68, but I would then go to the lower number to make sure I really got at least 100 in. And this only happened when we had a tough transition. (Trot to canter will never be as perfect as I want it to be when there are bucking horses sharing the arena with us..)
  2.  How long do 100 transitions take to do? So, I can’t really answer this because it depends on what your goal is. My goal was to do transitions regularly and frequently. I didn’t want Macy trotting or cantering for more than 2 20m circles, if that. So, for us, we got right to work, doing lots of walk to halts in our warm up and the entire thing took 35 minutes.
  3. Why would you want to do this? Well, for me, I need to stay really focused when I ride Macy and this enabled me to work on that. I had to be thinking of my next move all the time. I had to be preparing for the next move all the time. How many times do we (I) get lazy and just cruise into an upward or downward? This helped me not do that.

So, I’m sure there are some of you out there thinking “Really Nadia, a post on 100 transitions? I’ve made this part of my routine for years!” And to those of you- I can understand why! But none of us in my eventing barn had, so it was super exciting and new. Definitely something I’ll be adding to my routine when I am riding June! Thanks L. Williams for the inspiration!

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Tall Boots; I Get It

So, while I have been on the quest for a pair of half chaps, I have also been on a bit of a spending bender when it comes to tall boots.

You see, I had a pair of Mountain Horse tall boots, Firenze, I believe, and they never recovered from our adventures in Ireland. The mud. They never recovered from the mud. And when the zipper broke for the third time, I decided to retire them. BTW, it’s really weird throwing boots away. Am I wrong?

So, I was on the hunt. But, seeing as I have zero things on the horizon that would require tall boots, I decided to be REALLY picky. And by picky, I mean wait for an incredible sale.

It didn’t take long. While home for Thanksgiving I stopped by a local tack store. Sadly, it was closing shop. Not sadly (for me,anyway) everything was 50% off. There wasn’t much inventory left but they had a few  Ariat tall boots.

There was only one pair in my size. And they were brown. I’ve never had brown boots before… But I put them on and it was magical. So, in order to justify the purchase I got a navy show coat too…

They are Ariat Heritage Field boots and I love them.

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I’ve started breaking them in but am planning on using them for clinics and shows only. Cause I am like that with my boots. I love Ariat. I figure there is a solid reason they’ve been around forever. Quality products in my opinion.

But, I knew I still needed black show boots. So I would occasionally check on sales etc. And then one day I googled Tredstep Donatello. And Horse.com (a company I have never bought from) had one pair left. For $84. But there was one problem. They were a size too big.

But for $84? I decided to buy them with the thought that if they don’t fit at all, I can send them back or re-sell them.

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So, they fit. Kinda. They’re too big, but not REALLY too big. I added a heel lift and they came with a size adjuster thingy and those both helped. I’ve been riding in them regularly, and while I am still on the hunt for another pair of boots that are juuusst riiight, these will certainly do in the meantime.

Tredstep, Mountain Horse and Ariat were the three brands I was looking at, and I am excited to have found two pairs I am really happy with! So, do you have either of these boots? Love them? I hope you do!

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