Thursday, July 29, 2010


Our daughter Macey is sick. Macey is a puker. I don't do puke.

If you'll recall, I'm an emetophobe, which means I have an unreasonable fear of vomit. I wrote about it here, here, and here. I did some work with a therapist about this, and recently did some relaxation exercises to help keep me calm the next time I have to be in a puke-related situation. I think that time is going to be today.

Right now Craig is home with Macey, but he has to leave in a few hours so I'll be home alone with her. And I'll have to deal with it if she pukes. By myself.

I hope I get through it. The whole idea of being scared of vomit is absurd and completely terrorizing at the same time.

Should be a fun afternoon. Yeah, not really.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Knee bone connected to the... foot bone?

With every lesson, I try to have something to "take home". Something that I make stick in my head to be able to work on for next time. Sure ,in every lesson there are some "in the moment" situations where corrections are made and the horse is better afterwards. But there is always something that can be applied to every ride that can make both me and the horse better, not just in that moment in that lesson, but better in the long run.

I was fortunate that Craig got video of my lesson with George Williams. I wish all of my lessons could be preserved on video, because I think going back to look at them is very educational.

For example, during my lesson George said that I should let my inside knee drop when the horse's inside leg is landing on the ground. Automatically I tried to do this, and at the time I didn't know why. I just did it because that was the instruction. Later, after watching my lesson, I decided that I'd try to adopt this new thing into my everyday riding.

When I began doing the sitting trot I had to look down to make sure I was timing my knee drop when the inside leg was hitting the ground. I did this most easily by checking when the outside leg was forward, like you do when checking if you are on the correct diagonal. So I started letting my knee drop when I would have been in the rising phase of the posting trot when the horse's outside shoulder was forward.

In my head I pictured George saying "Now. Now. Now." at the correct time. Once I got the timing right it was easy, but I caught myself looking down more than I should to check. Then I had to remind myself to look up, but I kept the "Now. Now. Now." going on in my head. After a few rides I got the hang of it and started to automatically establish the timing.

It was a little trickier at the canter, and it took a bit more checking to make it happen. George said it was on the third beat of the canter, but I found that hard for me to establish on my own. So I went back to the trot and got a good look at how the shoulder looked when the leg was on the ground. Then I went back to the canter and tried again. Eventually I think I got it, but with nobody on the ground it's just a guess. I'm pretty sure I had it right because it seemed to be timed right before the airborne phase of the canter, which would follow the third beat.

Then I got to thinking - why is this important? Is that to help with the rhythm of the stride? Or does it have something to do with the rider's seat or leg at that moment that helps to improve the gait?

One way to find out. I sent George an email. Here is his reply -

"The rider's inside knee goes down when the horse's corresponding front leg is on the ground at the walk, trot and canter. This helps the rider identify the rhythm of the horse. It is useful to know this on many levels.

The rider can mark half halts and encourage the horse to carry the weight and push off the ground more energetically to improve the quality of the gait. You can also use it for the timing of the aids in leg yielding and lateral movements. For instance at the trot if you know the inside front leg is on the ground then you know the inside hind is in the air at that moment. If you use your leg when a hind leg is "in flight" you can direct it further under the horses body thereby increasing the articulation of the joints when the hind leg is in the air.

That's the simple, short answer. I hope it helps. "

Ahh, perfect. That is just what I was looking for. So now that I had the explanation I should just be able to work that into my riding and presto! Better dressage!

If only it were that easy. There is a reason why some of us are trainers and some of us (meaning me here) are riders.

My next few rides I tried really hard to put this into practice, not just in the sense that I was marking out my knee drop in time with the foot falls, but also in the sense that I could, if I had my timing right, know when I had influence over which hind leg. I've often struggled with this in my riding, and there has been more than one occasion when my trainer would ask if I felt a certain hind leg doing something, and I rarely could. I don't know what is missing there in my "feeling" of the hind legs, but I thought now I had a tool to help teach me.

I was working with Albert, and while he is really getting a hang of the trot half-passes, he still has anxiety with the canter half-passes. At the trot half-pass I thought it would be very helpful to help activate the outside hind leg to help him get it farther under himself. So I warmed up, and practiced the knee drop, concentrating on the rhythm and trying to improve my feel. I did fine at the trot and canter when I was going straight forward, but in the lateral work it all went down the tubes.

There was so much more to think about with my aids when going forward AND sideways, plus the fact that Albert is still a bit iffy about the half-pass aids anyway. This all lead to me getting about one stride into the half-pass and totally losing the knee-drop association. I had issues with Albert getting tense, getting crooked, over-reacting to the leg aid, then resisting and falling behind my leg...all that fun stuff. So the knee-drop went out the window as I tried to salvage each exercise.

I'm not giving up on this yet though. I think that once the knee drop becomes second nature to me that I'll be able to unconsciously have it timed out in my head. Once this occurs I should be able to concentrate on the other aids and issues that come up and still know what's going on with the hind legs. So one of these days my trainer will say "Do you feel that?" and I can say, confidently, "YES."

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Blogging it up, in Lexington!

I lost the Live From Lexington contest. But I'm going to go to WEG anyway!

(By the way, in case any of you noticed that my contest blog posts never contained the words "World Equestrian Games" or "WEG" - that was because Purina asked us not to use those terms. Alltech and FEI own those terms and Purina did not have permission to use them, so they asked us to say "The Games in Lexington" or just "The Games". But I don't need permission here, so there! WEG WEG WEG!!)

Anyhow, my wonderful family put their heads, and their wallets, together and have decided to finance my trip to WEG. I won't be going for the whole time, just four days, and I'll be on my own. Well, my trainer is coming with me, so it should be a hoot!

That means I'll be blogging from WEG. I won't have the access I would have had if I'd been one of the winners, but I'll be attending four events. I'll do the same job for this here blog as I would have done for Purina.

More details as I get them! Thanks for sticking with me after the contest. Hang out a few more months and see what I have to say about WEG.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

No sweat?

I'm trying to get back to riding Albert and Kaswyn more since the contest has ended. For the past month I rode them a little bit but not my usual four times a week. So it's time to get back to it.

It's been really hot here lately. Yesterday I only rode both horses for twenty minutes each, and we did a lot of walking. One thing I got from my lesson with George Williams is that I'm not working on the walk enough. When I had been walking the boys I would just let them walk. I didn't really think about improving the step and making them march in the walk. Now when I put the horse together and ask him to get on the bit I really make sure he is marching and walking properly.

This has been a bit of a shock for both horses. They got very used to just ambling along at the walk, checking out the wall or the footing or whatever. Now I'm on their cases, bumping with my leg, and making them march, march, march!

Albert picked up on it really quickly, but Kaswyn still wants to be lazy. I keep having to remind him that he needs to have a quality walk when he's on the bit. I know it's new and he'll get used to it, but I'm sure he's thinking "Come on lady, you've been riding me for 16 years and now we've got to do the walk differently?"

After Kaswyn's ride I sponged his back off. We didn't work really hard so he only got some sweat marks under his saddle. I started thinking about what I was taught as a kid - if you leave sweat on your horse's back, the back will get sore. It was ok to let the sweat dry and then curry and brush it off, but if you left the dry sweat there it would give the horse a sore back.

So why would this be true? If the sweat was ok to dry on the back only to be brushed off later, why would dried sweat that wasn't brushed off make a horse's back sore? It kind of doesn't make sense. I could see if the horse was worked really hard they could get a sore back, and be sweaty at the same time, but I don't know how sweat alone could contribute to a sore back.

What do you all think? Were you taught this also?

Thursday, July 15, 2010


Well people, I did some stupid things when this contest ended.

First I cried and cried when I lost. That's just ridiculous. It's just a contest, it's not like something tragic happened to me or someone I know. Totally overdramatic.

Then, because my emotions were at an all time high, I said things that I never would have said, and never should have said. I got involved in a dialogue that I never should have started, and helped it escalate. I said hurtful things.

So, I was a jerk. I should have just lost this contest with grace and dignity but I was unable.

I'm done with talking about this now. I've done enough damage and by God, I'm finally going to keep my damn mouth shut.

That's it. I'll delete nasty comments, FYI. Usually I don't delete any comment except spam (because I really don't need penis enlarging pills) but this time I think I might deserve 'em.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

It's over

Well folks, I did not win.

I could not have put any more into this contest than I did. I worked my ass off, but had fun doing it. It just sucks that I didn't win.

Now I'm just waiting for the call. I'm fairly certain that a rep from Purina will contact me to tell me I didn't win. So, that should be fun, huh? I'm sure they won't want to make the call either. I don't like making "bad news" phone calls to patients, so I can't imagine that calling me to say "Hey! You didn't win! Thanks for playing!" will be any more fun.

A huge thank you goes out to everyone who helped me along the way. My husband Craig and my family, my trainer Lauren Tisdale, all the fine experts for my Great 8 series, all my Facebook friends, and Stacey from Behind the Bit (who put on a fantastic campaign for me). Thanks everyone.

So that's it. One month of flurry and excitement and now it's back to normal.

Anyone else want to sponsor me to go?

Yeah, didn't think so.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Going down swinging

As of right now I keep falling further and further behind in the contest. It's not looking good, my friends. Please vote and pass it on to vote to anyone and everyone. It's still possible to pull this out, but networking must be maxed to get this done.

Vote here! -->

The contest ends tonight at midnight. I'm not ready to give up yet, so lets make this last push count!

I'm sure I'll get a call from Purina with the official results on Tuesday morning. Lets hope it will be good news!

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Gearing up

Okay folks, it's almost over.

This contest has literally taken over my life for the last month. I made phone calls, visited many barns, rode new horses, met some great people, and gathered fantastic information. Then came the write up and video editing, posting, and networking for votes. I'm pooped.

But right now it's time to kick it into high gear! The contest ends at midnight, Eastern time on Monday, July 12. Please vote every day until then to keep my numbers up. The fight for the second place slot is so very close and it could all come down to a vote or two in the end. Friend me on Facebook too - I post daily reminders to vote, plus info on what each blog post is about.

And let me just say the finale of the "Sheri's Great 8" series is coming. I was able to do a Dressage segment. It was incredible. Dressage fans, you won't want to miss it.

When the contest is all over I'll most likely take a few days off to regroup, then I'll be posting back here. I think. If I'm one of the two big winners I'm not sure what will happen. I'll keep you all posted.

Thanks everyone for your support. I wouldn't have gotten this far without ya!

Vote here!!

Header Image from Bangbouh @ Flickr