Friday, January 29, 2016

Last Day to Enter Logo Design Contest!

Another friendly reminder that today is the last day to send in your entries for the Zippy Horse Media logo design contest! Click HERE for the contest details. See you all Monday when goes live!

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Lesson Recap: Unlocking the Neck

The indoor arena at the farm where Eventing Trainer is based out of was one of several in the area that collapsed last winter. They began construction of a new one over the summer and it was finally open for business the last week of December! The mild and warm winter that we were so far having had been fortuitous because we could keep riding the outdoor (so long as it was daytime) well into December, therefore I didn’t miss any lessons due to a lack of indoor! We had sort of a slush storm followed by single digit temps easier in the week though, so the outdoor is now officially a no-go and we had our fist lesson in the farm’s new indoor. 

(Not the beautiful new indoor - just the tiny normal one)

It had significantly warmed up by Saturday, however, so there was snow and ice sliding off the indoor roof during our lesson and it was spooking Maggie a bit. As I was taking off her cooler and setting it on an unused standard in the corner, a giant slab of ice slid off making quite the racket. Maggie startled at it and jumped just enough to step on my foot. I think it was the horse equivalent of a scared kid running over and jumping on their parent for comfort during  thunderstorm. So that gives you a little bit of an idea about Maggie’s mindset - she was a little on edge.

I warmed up by myself while Trainer watched and she noticed that Maggie was a lot more awake and more forward than she had ever seen her before. She also said that I was keeping a much better rein length and better contact than I had been during warmups for previous lessons - so that was good. Since Maggie was so forward right off the bat, we could spend the lesson working on channeling the forwardness instead of creating it for once!

The next step, now that we have forwardness and pushing from behind, is to channel that energy over her back and into the contact, closing the circle of energy and finally creating the true contact that we’ve been lacking. Aside from the lack of forwardness in previous lessons, the other thing that has been inhibiting us from closing the circle of energy has been a lack of suppleness in Maggie’s neck, so that’s the main thing we worked on during this lesson. 

I'd say this is a pretty typical 'frame' for Maggie - though she very much bobbles from over and under the bit.

Now, a very important disclaimer: The only reason we could fuss with Maggie’s neck was because she was already forward and we didn't have to work on that. Forward is always the first step. If we focused on her neck when she wasn't forward then we would be riding backwards,and we all know that’s not good. As long as Maggie stays forward we can work on her front end without riding backwards, but the second that she loses forwardness then it has to be regained before going back to working on the front end. 

To supple Maggie's neck my trainer first worked the bit in her mouth by holding my reins and walking with me. I had to use my leg to keep her forward. The idea was to move the bit around in her mouth enough to get her to drop at the poll and stay forward so she would lengthen and unlock her neck. I was leery about this at first because it was a whole lot more rein action than I'm used to using. Definitely not ‘quiet hands’. 

Maggie hasn't really been told yet where she needs to position her head and I need to help her figure that out. What I'm doing at this point is saying "Hey - not ok to brace yourself - give me my reins back and hold yourself up”. The action is to move my elbows ever so slightly behind my hip instead of moving just my hands.

At first I said it felt odd to me because I wasn't giving Maggie any release. Trainer said that's because she hadn't earned it yet. It took a while for Maggie to figure out what I was asking, and for her to relax and give with her neck, but eventually she did. When she did I had nice constant contact in both reins, the feeling of nice a workmanlike trot that was pushing forwards instead of up and down, and the feeling that I actually had control of her outside shoulder.

When we got that connection I could also ask her for some real bend on the circle just by flexing my inside hand and keeping my outside rein steady and outside leg behind the girth. Like with jumping, I can't throw away my reins. More so, I can't let Maggie snatch away the reins. Also, when I feel Maggie picking up more contact I can't let the reins slip. I need to teach her that I determine the rein length, not her, and she needs to maintain contact. What I can do, is be more flexible in my elbows and move my whole elbow forward and in front of my hips to allow Maggie to go more forward but remain at the same level of contact. 

This lesson opened up a whole new step in our training, now that we finally have the ability to get past simply needing to be forward. I’m excited to be at that next step of asking for more from Maggie, but I have to admit that the amount of rein I was using at times made me a little uncomfortable. I really trust this trainer however, and she assured me that she wouldn't be telling me to use that much rein if she thought I was going to over do it. I think she’s got me pegged as a contemplative rider, which I certainly try to be.

I feel like perhaps some people (just people in general, not thinking of anyone in particular) might raise an eyebrow at using so much rein. I sure did. It just doesn't seem very 'dressage'. Sometimes I forget though, that with a green horse you might have to “shout” your aids before you can “whisper” them. I look forward to the stage where I can have that nice soft connection with Maggie - I just have to learn how to get it and help her build the strength to keep it.

Has anyone else had to get past a hurdle with a green horse where you’ve needed to teach them to accept contact and soften their neck? How did you achieve it?

And 1 more day to get your logo in for the design contest!

Monday, January 25, 2016

What Is It About January?

I sincerely hope that everyone all down the east coast who weathered the storm has stayed safe and warm! As someone who has way too much experience with Snowpocalypses (Snowpocalyi?), I put together a little advice on blizzard survival for you all. I feel your pain, but man, I'm really glad it didn't make it up my way.

Just a little ear dusting here.
January isn't over yet though. Our first blizzard last year happened on January 27th so I feel like everyone around here is still holding their breath and waiting to see if we'll get hammered again. I sincerely hope not, but if it happens it happens. I've become resigned about the weather.

In other news, poor little Zipper had a colic episode this weekend! At 18 years old now and having never had even the slightest inkling of colic before I figured her guts were as solid as Old Ironsides. I guess with horses there are never any guarantees like that though! I should know better.

Saturday morning my mom texted me that Zipper hadn't eaten her hay overnight and that she wasn't touching it this morning either. Let me put this in perspective for you: the last time Zipper went off her feed was when she dislocated her hip.

So I called the vet.

He determined that she was most likely having an impaction colic, though he couldn't actually confirm it via rectal palpation (Male veterinarian with large hands + Miniature Horse rectum = Nope), but we figured we'd treat it as such. Zipper got tubed, got some banamine, and got shut in her stall for the rest of the day so we could easily check for poops. 

"You expect me to eat this?"
Fairly soon after she woke up from sedation (tiny pony was NOT happy about getting a nasogastric tube - you would not believe how high a tiny horse with only one hip joint can rear) she was pretty bright, alert, vocal about being hungry, and generally acting pretty normal. We got the OK to give her a nice mash that evening which she slurped down, but since then has pretty much just turned up her nose at it - she wants REAL food, darn it, none of that mushy stuff. 

Billy: "What you got there??"
As of this morning, she has made some lovely little piles of mini poo and is acting her normal self so she's getting little bits of regular hay and we'll continue trying to bribe her into eating a mash (maybe with some crushed peppermint in it?) and drinking more water.

Now, you might recall that Maggie had an impaction colic around this same time year. What is about January? Ugh. Never mind, don't answer that actually...I know it's all about water intake. Perhaps the question should be, why is this all of a sudden a problem for me and my horses? Neither had seemed to be drinking any less and neither has a problem with water buckets freezing (Maggie had a tank heater and Zipper has bucket cozies - the bucket cozies combined with the relatively mild temperatures means we really haven't had a problem with bucket freezing yet this winter).

For Zipper the only other change this year that I can think of (actually my mom thought of this!) is that she's on a little bit of hay stretcher. It's pretty dry stuff, but it doesn't expand very much when you add water to it (not akin to beet pulp). perhaps that has something to do with it or perhaps not. Either way, I hope this doesn't become a trend more than it already has!

And don't forget: the deadline to submit a logo for Zippy Horse Media is this Friday at Midnight!

Friday, January 22, 2016

Reminder! 1 Week Left for Logo Design Entries!

Just a friendly reminder!

The winning design will be rewarded with a $50 e-gift certificate to their choice of one of the following stores:

If entries warrant, I'll try to figure out something for 2nd and 3rd place also!

As I mentioned, I don't really know exactly what I want so I'm super open to different things, but here are a few guidelines/thoughts:

  • Should relate to horses somehow. (I hope that's obvious?)
  • You don't have to incorporate the quickie text logo that I made, but feel free to if you like. If you want to use the same font it's "Shadows Into Light"
  • If you want to use the same shade of teal that's prominent in the website it's "66c9be". You certainly don't have to, though! The logo doesn't even have to be in color! I do prefer blues and greens, however, if it is. 
  • I tend to prefer designs that are somewhat simplistic/streamline. Dunno, just do.
  • Do you have multiple ideas? Submit as many logos as you want!
  • By submitting a logo you are agreeing that I can use it on the website/blog, social media, and perhaps even some merchandise if the mood ever strikes me to get some made someday. 

The submission deadline is Friday, January 29th at midnight. Email submissions to with the subject line 'Logo Design Contest'. The winner will be announced Monday, February 1st when goes live.

Get creative! Tell your horse-loving graphic designing friends! And good luck! 

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Lesson Recap: Discovering My "Bail Out" Mechanism

As with all lessons from my jump trainer, she started out by asking me how things were going. I said that I was still trying to really work on my lower leg and keeping Maggie forward and responding to inside leg in particular. I told her I was having more success at the trot - we had been doing a lot of trot work and I felt like we doing some pretty ok work. The canter, however, was another story. 

She likes her window

Earlier last summer during dressage lessons I had started to feel like we were actually starting to be able to canter properly and do trot-canter transitions that weren’t a total mess. However, since going forward has been our primary goal as of late (rightfully so), I had been feeling kind of incompetent at the canter and that it was flat and just running. Trainer assured me that that’s ok for now. We’ve got to get the basics back of being forward before we can have a pretty canter. 

Cantering is not Maggie’s favorite gait - that’s for sure. Trotting comes much more naturally for her. It was really assuring for trainer to tell me that she could definitely see improvement in Maggie’s canter (even as flat as it currently is) since she started teaching me at the beginning of the summer; particularly that it was much, much stronger overall. Eventually, after we continue to build her strength, she’ll be able to hold the canter for longer and we’ll be able to go back to really working on collecting it and having it be a proper working canter.

So we started out the lesson with Trainer giving me a few exercises to work on at the canter:

1. Posting The Canter

I feel a little bad writing about this, because Trainer told me to never tell anyone that she taught me to do this because it would ruin her reputation as a trainer. She said that if someone ever sees me doing it, just tell them “I’m messing around” or “I’m experimenting”, because this is something to never, ever do for real in riding/ showing for real…unless you play polo.

The reason she recommended the exercise to me however, was because she’s seen Buck Davidson teaching it to a student with a similar lower leg problem as mine. Emma used to work on this as well (but for a different reason), and has previously explained it probably better than I can, but essentially you just sit for a stride and rise for a stride. It took me a few circles to get it, but it totally clicked when I did and I think I said aloud, “Oh, THERE’S my lower leg!” 

So yes, it’s an excellent exercise for helping me to find my lower leg. It clicked when on the rising stride I figured out that I needed to be a little straighter in my posture than one is when in a true two-point in order to keep my balance and get in and out of the saddle quickly enough with the rhythm of the canter. And in order to keep Maggie cantering, my leg had to be stuck to her side in the proper “on” position, plus I had to be sure that I was looking up and ahead. More of this exercise will help me to develop a better feel for where my lower leg is and when it’s in the correct spot.

2. Super Fast Trot/Canter Transitions

This shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone, but guess what? Transitions help the horse build strength! The next exercise we briefly worked on was simply transitioning back and forth from trot to canter again and again on a circle. The aim was to make the transitions as quickly as possible. By the time I got Maggie cantering I should already be thinking ‘trot.’ This exercise served to: 1.) Build strength, as I previously mentioned; and 2.) Increase Maggie’s responsiveness since she tends to be on the lazier side at times. Adding these rapid transitions into our schooling at home should help Maggie eventually achieve a strong enough canter so that we can eventually get a nice balanced dressage canter. 

After talking about and working on my canter woes for a while, it was time to go back to the ground poles again! We did the same grid of 5 ground poles set at one-stride (18 foot) distances and I was super pleased that Trainer was impressed with how we handled it right off the bat! She said that I did a great job of keeping my body quieter and my leg on throughout the whole thing. I don't recall Maggie breaking into the trot once!

And then she raised the first, middle, and last poles...

...and I just could not seem to get a good distance to the first jump (all of them were tiny verticals, by the way) which messed us up for essentially the rest of the grid. Trainer thinks the turn into the grid was messing up the distance I was seeing. Whatever it was, it was messy. I did however learn something.

When things go to pot over a jump my “bail out” is to throw away the reins by letting them slip and essentially say to Maggie, “You’re on your own kid! Save yourself” This should also not really come as a surprise to anyone, but that is not the correct response to messing up a jump. 

Instead, I need to keep contact while not being constricting - I need to give with my elbows, which is a common theme lately - and not leave Maggie on her own to balance the both of us. I need to help out and support her. 

I got some good practice regarding this (thanks to the fact that I couldn’t get the right distance to the first jump throughout the entire lesson), but Trainer had to yell at me a couple times before I really committed to maintaining contact. Flubbing the first jump also made completing the rest of the grid messy work and I got a lot of “KEEP GOING! LEG, LEG, LEG, LEG!”

Overall, even if we didn’t jump very prettily, there were a lot of good takeaways from this lesson for things to be mindful of and practice on my own. Trainer was also really complementary of me, saying that she could tell I had been doing my homework - so that was a really great feeling!

Do you have a "bail out" mechanism? How did you overcome it?

Monday, January 18, 2016

Interviewing Avery Klunick

Last week I got to interview young 3* rider, Avery Klunick, for an Eventing Nation piece profiling riders that made the Eventing 25 Training List. When Jenni from EN asked if I wanted to cover Avery for the series I was psyched because I remembered watching a video of her now infamous save at the AECs last year. Clearly, this girl has tenacity!

Avery Klunick eventing nation
Screenshot via Eventng Nation
When I talked to Avery, she was on the road trailering from Aiken to Ocala for the training session and had only just trailered from Texas to Aiken the week before. I titled the article, "Avery Klunick Goes With the Flow" because of the down-to-earth and easy-going vibe I got from her; she really seems like a genuinely humble, nice, and fun person.

One thing that I wanted to further elaborate on was how dedicated Avery was to balancing school with riding. When she was talking to me about her 2nd place finish at Chattahoochee last spring she mentioned to me that she has a intensive summer course going on at the same time so she drove all night from Texas to Georgia; arriving on the show grounds at 3 AM, showed over the weekend, and then drove back in time for class on Monday morning. Holy smokes.

I asked her if she had any tips for balancing riding with school and she laughed and said, "I could write a book!" before continuing, "My biggest thing is believing that anything is possible. It's sad to me that a lot of people don't even try because they don't think its possible. You have to be able to make sacrifices and miss a few parties, but I think it's important to have goals as something to work towards." She paused, and then added: "And all that motivational stuff, blah, blah!"

Thanks, Avery, for taking the time to talk with me! Cheers to you and best wishes for the 2016 season and onward!

And also don't forget about the logo design contest!

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

2015 Goals Review

I’m a little late in recapping these - so late, I feel, that I debated about wether or not it was worth it to do so. But upon second thought, I decided it was important to come back and take a look at these. After all, succeed or fail, what is it worth to set goals in the first place if you never look back at them?

Riding Goals:

1. Find a trainer in the area to take jumping lessons with. -YES!
A year ago I said, “This is is going to be paramount to all the rest of my goals this year, so I'm going to make this my number one priority for my riding goals.”  Even if I didn’t do anything else this year (which isn’t entirely true), in terms of my riding and equestrian pursuits this is probably the biggest and best change, so I’m really happy that I put myself out there and got myself in gear to get these lessons. 

My first lesson was in April and with the exception of August (right after house buying and knowing that we’d also need to buy a truck soon - i.e. not having a lot of extra cash this month) I’ve taken a lesson a month with this trainer. Obviously, I’d love to do more, but 1.) The lessons are expensive and it would be difficult to afford that; 2.) They’re slightly more difficult to schedule since we have to trailer out (about 30 mins away) and during the summer the trainer is often away at shows.

After our last show in September, I wasn’t planning on having any more lessons with her since finances are really tight after house and truck buying, but I was really grateful when she offered to have me do stalls at the farm about a weekend per month in exchange for lessons. That allowed me to keep lessoning through December.  

2. Keep up with lessons at least twice a month. - Half Credit
This was a win up until August when finances got trickier, and also with the exception of February when we got snowed out of the indoor. Otherwise, we did pretty good job by having two dressage lessons a month until we got started with the jumping trainer, and then one of each type of lesson a month.

3. Get more confident over fences and school XC more. - Somewhat…
I think I got out and legitimately XC schooled once over the summer, but I also had my first ever XC lesson in September with the jump trainer and that was awesome. Otherwise though, I went on a few trail rides during which we jumped a few small fences (and exponentially more trail rides where we didn’t jump) and also went on two hunter paces where I did some of the lower optional fences…so that sort of counts?

Overall, I’d say I do feel more confident at our current height (2’3”), but definitely haven’t gained any confidence over anything bigger which is a little disappointing, but it is what it is and it’s something we need to take our time about.

4. Stay relaxed in dressage. - YES!
We’re pretty darn good on this one. So good in fact that it’s actually a little bit of a problem, because when Maggie gets relaxed she loses forwardness and impulsion. The next step is to stay relaxed while still having impulsion!

5. Show at the Beginner Novice level. - Nope.
Didn’t happen. Maybe this year, but maybe not. We’re just going to have to see how it goes. More on this in another post.

Blog Goals:

1. Keep up with posting. - Half Credit Again?
Much like every other goal it seems, this took a hit in the latter part of the year also. I nearly stopped blogging in June, did 2 or 3 posts in July and August, then picked it back up a little more steadily in September, but nowhere near the level I had been at originally. 

2. Participate in blog hops. - Nope.
Still couldn’t jump on the bandwagon for some reason, and realized I don’t actually have much desire to. Dunno. 

3. Get a sponsored raffle/product review. - Technically Yes.
I did a product review of the Scratch N’ All Grooming Block which included a special offer, but nothing else. I’d still like to aim to do more in the future.

Personal Goals:

1. Stay active outside of riding. - Half Credit…Again.
For what seems like the umpteenth time, this was also a win until August and then not so much. I was super good about gyming it up for the first half of the year and once the weather got nice I went on runs outside with some frequency until we moved. I even did my first ever 5k and mountain bike race in the spring! I mentioned the I wanted to do more outdoorsy things with my husband, and we did do some hiking and kayaking, but not much. After moving things got busy, it got dark and cold out, and I didn’t renew my gym membership for financial reasons. I feel a whole lot less fit now than I did at the beginning of the summer. I need to figure out something to get me moving more until it warms up again to run outside (I’ve had asthma since I was 8 and not much bothers it anymore EXCEPT cold air so I can’t run when it’s colder than about 45 degrees out.)

2. Pay off Maggie's surgery. - Ehhh…
Uhhh…Well I did at least previously acknowledge that this was not going to be a one year goal. I can’t say with any certainly that I made much progress on this, but it didn’t get much worse either. Now that Christmas is over I need to initiate a true spending freeze on this credit card. 


Overall the year seems like sort of a wash in regards to these goals, but it seems appropriate to reiterate what I said in my 2015 in Review post: "I think everything that has happened this year has put us in a better place in life, in my riding, and in this blog, which will hopefully set us up to be more successful next year." Looking back at these goals, I still agree with that statement. 

Again I think the biggest achievement was finding a jumping trainer and lessoning with her. I knew  off the bat that that would be the biggest thing, which is why I made it my priority. Now that I'm on the right path with her, I think we're going to be in much better shape for whatever 2016 holds!

>>And just a reminder: Don't forget about the logo design contest!

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Project Reveal and Contest Announcement!

In a recent post, "How 2015 Has Changed My Blog...and What's to Come in 2016" I talked about all of the cool opportunities to branch out in my writing during 2015 and I mentioned that I've set up hosting a domain for a new website that this blog will be incorporated into. Well... it's almost ready! 

I'm pleased to introduce:

The domain is and it's currently in maintenance mode, so if you go there you won't find much at the moment. I'll assure you though, I'm hustling to get it all set in time for my planned release date of Monday, February 1st

You might be wondering, "Why the name change?" The answer to this is that I wanted something less specific as I expand the blog a little. I'll still be posting all the same stuff about my adventures with Maggie, so The Maggie Memoirs will live on in that way, but I'll be adding some posts about other horse-related topics too.  

I chose "Zippy Horse" as homage to my mini, Zipper. 

I spend the most of my time and energy with Maggie now for sure, but Zipper will always have a very special place of her own in my heart - she's the one that started me on this whole equestrian path initially, so I feel like anything I do within my equestrian pursuits circles back to her somehow. Sort of meta for a mini horse, but that's how I feel! 

Anyway, here's a little screen shot sneak peak of the new site:

I've still got a few kinks to work out, things to update, and tweaking of the layout I want to do, but that's the general look of it! In my opinion there is one big piece still missing, however. A logo. And that is where  you, dear readers, come in to play...

Drum roll please...

Zippy Horse Media Logo Design Contest!

Yes, I whipped up a quick text-only logo (the first image on this post), but I would really like something more pictorial and I don't have the graphic design expertise or the time to whip one up myself. Plus, and I'll be honest, I don't really know what exactly I want so I really want to see some different options!

The winning design will be rewarded with a $50 e-gift certificate to their choice of one of the following stores:

If entries warrant, I'll try to figure out something for 2nd and 3rd place also!

As I mentioned, I don't really know exactly what I want so I'm super open to different things, but here are a few guidelines/thoughts:

  • Should relate to horses somehow. (I hope that's obvious?)
  • You don't have to incorporate the quickie text logo that I made, but feel free to if you like. If you want to use the same font it's "Shadows Into Light"
  • If you want to use the same shade of teal that's prominent in the website it's "66c9be". You certainly don't have to, though! The logo doesn't even have to be in color! I do prefer blues and greens, however, if it is. 
  • I tend to prefer designs that are somewhat simplistic/streamline. Dunno, just do.
  • Do you have multiple ideas? Submit as many logos as you want!
  • By submitting a logo you are agreeing that I can use it on the website/blog, social media, and perhaps even some merchandise if the mood ever strikes me to get some made someday. 

The submission deadline is Friday, January 29th at midnight. Email submissions to with the subject line 'Logo Design Contest'. The winner will be announced Monday, February 1st when goes live.

Get creative! Tell your horse-loving graphic designing friends! And good luck!