Mary Wanless has a blog!

A while ago I did a post about a book I read called “Ride With Your Mind” by Mary Wanless. I adored the book; it transformed my riding with a few simple concepts. Today I came across the author’s blog. Needless to say I was stoked!!! Here is the website:

She offers a unique perspective on how to improve your riding by understanding body mechanics. I’m very into chiropractic and I understand how imbalances in the body affect ability to function optimally. Imbalances in your body in turn affect your horse’s body and his ability to balance. I highly recommend her book and her blog!


Can you progress without a trainer?

Last summer and into the fall I was taking weekly lessons with a trainer that I loved and then riding a couple more times on my own each week. I loved riding with Mary because she really fine-tuned my riding and clued me in to some things I was doing wrong that Iwasn’t even aware of. We were working on really basic stuff, like riding a circle that looked like a circle instead of an amoeba and maintaining contact through transitions. I loved riding with her; the only problem was that I had to trailer to another barn for each lesson and it took 3 times as long as it would to take a lesson at my own barn. (The problem with my barn is that there is no real arena, just a small pasture).

I stopped taking lessons around Thanksgiving and rode as much as I could on my own all winter long. I feel like I improved my riding, but I’m wondering how much I’ll really be able to progress without regular input from a trainer. Am I dooming myself to a pattern of mistakes I don’t even know I’m making???

Since regular lessons aren’t in the time or the money budget, here’s my plan to improve: (I love numbered lists!)

1. Read, read, read! I’m slowly amassing a library of equestrian how-to books by the great riders and teachers. My favorites are George Morris for hunter equitation and Alois Podhajsky (sp?) for dressage. A lot of stuff in the books is over my head and written for a rider with a skill level superior to mine, but the more I ride, the more it makes sense to me. I find myself riding and thinking, “Oooooooh, this must be what he’s talking about in Chapter 7!” Riding is one of those things you can only learn by doing, but I find that reading makes me more informed of the theory behind what I’m supposed to be doing when I ride. Slowly but surely my practice is matching up to the theory.

2. Ride, ride, ride! As I said before, the only way to learn to ride is to get on a horse and RIDE! Even when I’m hacking around the barn or trail riding, my balance is improving, my legs are getting stronger, and I’m becoming more aware of my body position and my horse’s movement. The more I ride, the more I become familiar with his quirks and his moods and our partnership grows. Before this winter, I was afraid to canter on Baron. I was afraid he would get too quick and I wouldn’t be able to bring him back down, and I was afraid of falling off! This winter we cantered up and down a long dirt road nearly every time I rode. The more we cantered, the more stable and comfortable I became and the more I trusted my ability to control him. (He’s a very good boy; he always comes back to me when I ask.) I definitely need work at the canter, but the only way to improve is to canter, canter, and canter some more!

3. Go to some clinics! I read that Jane Savoie (big deal dressage trainer) was so poor when she first started riding that all she could afford was a somewhat broke-down ex-racehorse with suspensory issues. Regular lessons weren’t in her budget either. She compensated by saving up for a clinic every few months or so where she did an intensive day or weekend with a trainer she respected. She would take the trainer’s suggestions and go home and try to improve the specific areas the trainer had pointed out. I haven’t had the opportunity to take Baron to a clinic, but this is something I have on the goals list. In addition to improving my riding, I think it would be fun for Baron. It’s a nice change of scenery for him and he would love to meet the other horses at the clinic. He’s a social butterfly!

4. Get free advice from other riders! Ask people at your barn who ride better than you to critique you or to give you some pointers. Most people are happy to give their opinion and you may get some helpful advice. If it’s crappy advice, just ignore it! Also, I love the forum on the Chronicle of the Horse website. I often post questions on there about how to deal with training issues, like “How do I deal with my horse rushing at the trot?” Some people who comment are full of $#!%, but some are knowledgable riders and trainers who have explained things in a way that made perfect sense to me. For example, my question about rushing at the trot got some good responses about how it is most likely a balance issue for Baron. I got some great advice and some tips on exercises to try at the trot.

I would love to be a horse owner with unlimited time and money to spend on improving my riding, but I have a life, responsibilities and expenses outside of the barn. Like most horse owners, I’m becoming a better rider slowly but surely, with a lot of time and hard work and a little creativity!

Trailer Loading SUCCESS!

Last night I went to the barn at 8:30 pm, when it was cool and my baby was in bed. I wanted to spend some time practicing trailer loading in preparation for showing this summer. I am happy to report that I got Baron on the trailer TWICE in just 15 minutes with no shenanigans! He hesitated a little but got on with no rearing or excessive pulling. I let him back out when he was ready and then I immediately asked him to load again. He DID IT!  For his reward I marched him straight back out to the pasture to be with his friends. Horse shows here we come!!!

In other news, I rode on Saturday and Baron was a bit of a pill. He kept pulling me toward the gate and I had to get really firm with him to keep him from trotting right on out of the pasture. In his defense, it was hot and he hasn’t been worked regularly in a while. Still, he needs to get over the pulling thing. It is ever so annoying!

I’ve decided to do a local schooling show on June 25th. It’s a county saddle club show and it seems pretty laid back. It would be a good low-pressure way to put some show miles on Baron and help me get over my nerves. Now I just need to find a baby-sitter to come to the show with me and hold my baby while I ride…

How To Save Money as a Horse Owner

I am one of the cheapest people you’ll ever meet; I get it from my dad. I love the challenge of bargain hunting and that feeling you get when you score a great deal. This has definitely carried over into my horse expenditures. Here are a few ways I save money. Please comment and tell me yours!

1. Buy a bargain horse! I consider my horse to be my greatest bargain ever.  I purchased him almost straight off the track. He had a few months at a barn with some intermediate students using him for lessons, but he was far from “finished.” He needed major improvement in his ground manners  and he had to learn his new job (carting me around at a slow, steady pace), but he had great conformation, nice movement and a mellow personality. I paid $2500 for Baron which is cheap!  He has turned into a fantastic partner.

I should say that a cheap horse is not necessarily a bargain. You have to be careful that you’re not buying a broke down nag or an insane horse that will get you killed. With that said, there are a lot of fantastic horses on the market right now because of the down economy. People are forced to downsize their lesson programs and farms, so there are deals to be had.

2. Buy used! I hardly ever buy anything new becasue I’ve found that I can get such great deals on used tack and equipment on websites like Craigslist and Ebay. Virtually all of my tack came off of one of those two websites. For example, I bought my saddle on Ebay for under $300. A new Crosby wasn’t in the budget so on to Ebay I went!

3. DIY boarding. I’m at a Do It Yourself barn and I save hundreds on board every month. I have to make the time to clean my stall and fill a water bucket every day, but it only takes 20 minutes and it ensures that I see my horse regularly. I think we have a stronger bond because of it. He associates me with good things like a clean water bucket and fresh shavings in his stall. If your schedule allows for a more hands on boarding situation, I highly recommend it!

4. Take group lessons. I pay $50 for an hour lesson which means that if I want one every week I’m looking at an extra $200 per month in addition to board, farrier, feed, etc… A great way to reduce the cost is to find a friend who is at about the same skill level as you and take lessons together at a discounted rate. You’ll still get some one-on-one instruction and you’ll save money. If your skill levels are similar, you’ll be able to learn from each other’s mistakes. Plus, horses love having a friend around so you may find that your horse enjoys the lesson more as well.

5. Don’t do dressage! Wait, wait, before you get offended, let me explain. Schooling dressage is great and utilizing dressage as a way to improve your riding is also great. But if you want to show in dressage, you’ll need a dressage arena to practice which means you’ll have to be at a dressage barn. In my area these are waaaaaaay more expensive. I loved the dressage lessons I took, but I can’t show in dressage because my barn doesn’t have an arena. It has everything I need to show in hunters however (a flat place to ride and room to set up jumps)!

6. Use your local library. When I can’t afford lessons, I read books by the great instructors- George Morris, Alois Podhajsky, etc… I’ve found that my library has a pretty good selection of equestrian material. Consider donating books to the library as well. You’ll be helping people like me whose budget does not equal our passion!

7. Improvise! This winter I wanted to start working Baron over crossrails, but my barn does not have any crossrails (or any jumps, for that matter). I saw this lovely thingamajig at my local tack store that consists of two jumps standards and a rail that can be set up in a bunch of different configurations. It was over $100 though, and I didn’t want to spend that. Instead, I built a crossrail out of two lawn chairs and two groundpoles.  It was safe and it was free!

What about you? How do you save money as a horse owner?

First Post-Pregnancy Ride!

I had a baby 13 days ago, but I was itching to get back in the saddle so today I the new baby and the (nearly) two year old down for a nap and headed to the barn. Having my horse at a barn two minutes away from my house is a big plus in times like these. Both kids slept the entire time I was gone and my husband didn’t have to deal with either of them waking up and wanting Mommy.

Today was the first time I’ve ridden since March and I wasn’t sure how Baron would do. I thought he might be a little full of himself and trying to get away with some things but he was quite the opposite- very mellow and agreeable. God, I love that horse! We rode up and down the long dirt road and cantered a little to get him loosened up and then went back to the arena for some circles and trot work. Another boarder came back from a trail ride and came into the arena with us. Having some company was a nice change for Baron; usually it’s just me and him. I only rode for about half an hour, but it was great. He was ever so well behaved and I got to start getting back in shape!

Pictures coming soon!