…2014 resolutions for the New Year

Usually there are many things that come to mind when making New Years resolutions. I am choosing to keep it simple this year.

Stay neutral, open and observant in each ride. That’s my mantra for 2014.

I have gone through stages focusing  on technique, and micro-management.

I must now let my horse do his job.

I can be there for him when he needs me, but I cannot carry him.

I cannot focus on perfection only strive for it.

By staying neutral and observant I can improve my feel.

I’ve noticed a certain impatience to my warm up.

My expectations of how long it should take to get ready to work  have no impact on the horse’s readiness.

Patientce is a virtue…so I will choose to stay open and neutral.

I’ll ride correctly and let the patterns and exercises work for me and my horse. I realize that some things you  can’t hurry.

The virtue is in the comming together of the horse in a good frame on his own. I’v been guilty of “framing” the horse….before he was ready to yield.  I think it now better to ride an extra 15 minutes or so and have the horse come into you.

I also realize that having a talented horse that may give you 20% effort on any day must be asked to perform, demanding his attention leads to resistance. Some horses must be brought into work with more finesse, I will try to be more open to that.

The neutrality means not to judge the horse as lazy or unwilling to give over the back. I think some horses need convincing that the work will be fun and challenging. I believe giving the horse something to look at or something to ride over (cavalletti) may stimulate him and improve his work ethic. I enjoy fun new things and challenges, why not our horses.

Observant means not to overface or  overstimulate…there is a balance of what is fun and what is scary…don’t judge…be observant and creative in problem solving. A good observer can monitor feedback from the horse more effectively. Good riding is working through that infinite feedback loop.

I hope you find my musings interesting.

Happy New Year…from Kimberly Cox and Roderick

Here’s to a great 2014 full of hope, success and growth through….Barn Affirmations

Be thankful
As you enter the barn…

Here are personal affirmations I use as I go to train at the barn: I accept myself and my horse for who we are today. I have a warm regard for others at the barn. I am ready, present physically, emotionaly, mentally and spiritually. I will assist others whenever I can, without taking away from their self detrmination.I believe in win/win and give for the love of giving. Abundance is the natural state of the universe. Believe it.  Ask and allow. Grooming is a silent time to focus on and communicate with your horse.This is part of the ritual of preparation for a successful ride.

Yours in good riding,


Dressage Warm-ups…Training Log


black saddle
Calgary Dressage

Every horse needs a warm-up routine.  I follow the principles of the “Training Scale” but as I ride, I adjust  exercises to spend more time where my horse needs it.  This is no different than a human athlete who is tight in the hamstrings, spending more time streching this area.

My horse, Roderick, needs a good measure of forward and downward stretch at the walk and trot.  He needs this to free up his back and loosen through his poll.  I can’t put a time limit on this, as rhythm and looseness, are at the base of the “Training Scale”.  I really can’t move on with any other work until we have achieved this in our warm up.

Assuming we continue, I  now try some exercises to get Roderick to move off my leg.  Some horses are naturally very forward and may never need to work through these exercises.  I ride a square at the walk, halt at each corner of the square and execute a turn on the forehand.  I usually need to tap him with the stick to get him to move off my leg.  Once we are through this exercise he gets the idea.  If I need to reinforce this in the warm-up, I can ride into a leg yield on the long wall, take several steps of leg yield and then without a halt, change through a turn on the forehand to leg yield back along the long side the opposite way.  We can do this in trot also.  I find both very helpful to get Roderick moving.

We then continue with our square work to help get Roderick connected onto the outside rein. I ride the 1/4 turn on the haunches, then leg yield out 3 steps to another 1/4 turn on the haunches, etc. I do this at the trot also.  This sets the tone for the next exercise which starts with a 1/2 10m circle at A ….shoulder in, to half pass, back to shoulder in….then I straighten and ride forward.  This re-inforces the outside rein connection, and moving off my leg.

Next…our canter work begins.  Insist on a good depart.  Walk… canter…until it’s clean.  If it doesn’t happen you have to go back and fix it.  From there, we do counter canter… walk…true canter going large.  I give Roderick a forward downward stretch during a transition to medium trot on a 20m circle at A and C.

If this all goes well, we can work on a few flying changes.  More on changes in the future.

Dressage Warm-up..Get your Horse off your leg…

Great shot of the Dressage exercise "shoulder in"
Suppleness Rules

Try this exercise as part of your warm up:

Ride into a leg yield  facing the rail (either direction) on the long side of the arena.

Ride the leg yield several steps down the long side.

Halt in leg yield, do not straighten.

Use a  turn on the forehand to reposition to leg yield back the opposite way.

Immediately ask your horse to move off your leg and leg yield back down the long side.

Try and complete the exercise with no halt.  Keep moving your horse off your leg.

Repeat….Effective at walk. Try using working trot once you master the exercise.

Special thanks to a special friend for sharing this training exercise with me.

Calgary Dressage Tips…What to do if a test goes wrong….

Tips for Riders

When considering why your test did not go as it should, be honest and objective about why.

Your coach can be very helpful in this regard.  You need to look to the reason not the result.

This past weekend, I was dissapointed in my first ride, my horse was not with me and seemed to have his own agenda. I could have blamed it on many things, but that would do me little good at improving my performance nest time.

The test starts in the warm-up.  I forgot that.  Rhythm, looseness, contact…that is how I needed to start. I also needed to remember to “be there” for my equine partner, as he needs me to be confident one for the team.  I let him down in that regard.

The judges table at “C”, the noisey door, dogs and people moving about are distractions and excuses to go off task.  Focus and attention to detail in the spooky areas of the ring in the warm up were critical to performing my test well.  Instead of insisting on his attention where I knew we had challenges, I hoped for the best and stayed away from the scariest parts sof the ring.

My warm up may have looked pretty, but it did nothing to engage my horse and give him the confidence he needed to ignore the spooky bits and listen to me as the pilot.  I allowed him to develop his own agenda during the test, which was to focus on everything else, but me.  I effectively set him up to do this in my warm up.

What did I learn.?…Work things through.  Establish the basics of the training scale and build on them through thte warm up.  Keep the horse calm and confident in the scary end by working through suppleness and bend. Ask and allow (but insist).  Ride it through.  The warm up is crucial and you can’t just hope for the best, you have to make it happen.

The warm up is not always schooling, it’s an opportunity to prepare for something else entirely.  You can use elements from your schooling or test exercises for sure, but don’t let you and your partner down by not using the warm up for 100% effectiveness at the show.  A spooky horse will not be “fixed” in the warm-up, but you can use what you know to help set the horse up for the best possible outcome.  You can plan to half-halt or flex to the inside at the spooky corner.

Yikes…I have been riding long enough to know better.  I have to take this one for the team.  Thank goodness there is always a next time and a chance to do the right thing.  I owe it to myself, my horse, coach and sport.

My second ride was better.