Canter & Candor

Canter and Candor; an honest account of an amateur equestrian and her life with an OTTB


Going According to Plan

Filed here under “Things that never happen”.


This is my right leg, after someone snapped my fibula during a soccer game. What this means is: no riding for 6 weeks, no walking for 5, and no driving for 4.

What this also means is, no Woodside BN, and the end of my competition season.

Needless to say, I’m a little down in the dumps. I can’t work, either, because all my jobs are based at the barn and I can’t teach for liability reasons. So a little under two months of no riding, no income, and I have no idea what I’m going to do (other than become a couch potato and watch copious amount of Netflix).

Cori, however, is going to Trainer Boot Camp. N is doing a great job with him so far, and now, she has a super beautiful custom saddle to sit in while she does it (can you sense the bitterness yet?! I just want to sit in it! Just once! But I don’t think C would appreciate The Walking Boot, aka Medieval Torture Device).

Screen Shot 2016-09-11 at 10.28.03 AM.png

C, with so much good muscle and weight on him, and LOOK AT THE SADDLE!!

It’s havana buffalo and dark brown calfskin patches and white piping and it is soft and beautiful and fits him perfectly. I am so so excited to see the changes in the way he moves (since there was already a vast improvement with the last saddle change) and jumps, and I only wish I could experience it for myself firsthand. The price tag actually wasn’t bad for a completely custom saddle (I picked the leather type and color and piping, plus the metal type, monoflap vs regular, and on top of all that it got here in under 2 months!) and the saddle came from Adam Ellis in England.

C has been very good about delivering cuddles and making sure I don’t get too down about the whole thing. I’m doing my best to keep positive, and at least I’ll be 120% sure we’re ready for BN by Spring.

With all that said, I may update C&C if/when I go out and watch C’s training sessions, but as I am currently not working at the barn, and temporarily moved back in with my parents while I’m immobile, I’m not sure I’ll have much to blog about for the next while. But I will definitely have time enough to browse through all of your blogs, and ride vicariously through you, so keep me entertained! I’ll see you there.


— M



The Fastest Way is the Slowest Way

C has taught me quite a bit over the past month and a bit. With his heel bruise, we were pretty contained to walk work, and mild trot work in the arenas with soft footing. At first I considered this a detriment to our little training regime, but I have quite the opposite opinion now.

The last couple of days have proved to me that the fastest way to develop a horse is slowly.

While his foot was healing, we did huge amounts of lateral work, and encouraged him to get bend and edge more towards supple than stiff. The change in our dressage, when we did start working a little more seriously after he was feeling better, was incredible. He was so much more willing to get soft and round, and had a clearer understanding of what we were asking for in lateral movements.

All that walk work– whether it was dressage, or hacking around the property, or just letting him stretch down while we plodded around the arena– has made C so much stronger. I was chatting to my friend and mentioned he was a 4-year-old, and someone listening in said, “He’s four? He has a great topline for a four-year-old!”

cori July 2016 (1)

Latest conformation pic– he’s growing up!

I, for one, know what to thank for that! Walk work, all the way, one hundred percent.

All the walking also allowed me an opportunity to work on my seat. I did a whole lot of bareback hacking, which came in handy (along with C’s shiny new back muscles) when I (oops) forgot my girth after we trailered up for a trail ride!

No girth? No problem! Bareback 2.5 hour trail ride? Sure, why not!

C earned himself many, many carrots that day. He was stellar, and I think all that hacking around the property– getting used to trees rustling, higher winds, spending lots of time outside and getting surprised– prepared him for the trails. This was C’s first ever trail ride, and he ended up being the brave leader of our group! The other two horses, one 16-year-old and one 8-year-old mare, were puffing and blowing at a massive green water silo, and C strolled casually by them and gave them a look that said, “What’s all this drama for?”

Next post will be about some much more exciting news– this will be a little hint.



— M


A Month and a Half?!

Goodness gracious.

I hope you’ll bear with me through the quiet. C has been showing some mystery lameness that is isolated to his left front (more specifically, the lateral heel). He’s been on walking restriction only so on the bright side– lots of hacks! On the not-so-bright side… walk-only lessons, not much exciting business, and thus not much for me to post about.

We’re optimistic at this point that it’s just bruising from the ground getting hard, so keep your fingers crossed for baby C, please! The good news is also that once he’s recovered, we’ll be doing some full training with N– so 2-3 lessons per week. Wowza!

In the meantime, I’ve been riding a very generous friend’s extremely talented mare, Zena. She is an absolute blast, and pushes me to be the lead mare instead of taking the backseat. She won’t give me an inch unless I ask the right way at the right time. It’s also nice to feel like I’m the student again, after six-odd months being C’s constant teacher. I’m positive riding Zena is going to make me a better leader for C, since that’s something that N has been mentioning in our lessons. I need to be more assertive, because often, C goes, “Oh, I know what this is! I know what we’re doing!” bu-u-u-ut he actually has no clue. And that’s where I step in (theoretically).

I hope you all forgive the absence, and I’m hoping to get a couple of Zena posts in while C’s still in recovery. I’m also contemplating starting a little series about my time at the pony school, which is turning out to be educational for me as well as my beginners! It’s so fun to be teaching the next generation of equestrians, and it’s definitely a job filled with quirky, talented, and funny kids.

In other news, I may be moving to my barn. Yep, you heard right– on property! If everything works out, C will be in my back yard, and I’ll be a 30-second walk from my job.

Anyway, stay tuned for updates and I apologize once more for being a Bad Blogger. I’ll do my best to be more consistent in the future!

— M


Beginner Novice “Big Kids”

Because that title gives absolutely nothing away, right?



So this Sunday (yes, mother’s day… sorry mom!) N did a little outing to the Horse Park at Woodside. After the slightly problematic Fresno schooling, I was really hoping that minus the train and shooting range issues, we might be able to get a decent schooling done.

And boy oh boy, did baby horse deliver!

It started out a bit tetchy, as C was wild on the longe and when I got on, even more so. After some trotting and cantering around and some ‘discussions’, he seemed to have enough energy out to take a breath and grab a snack, as pictured* below.


nom nom nom

When we approached the first fence after a couple of warmup intro logs, N was like, “Okay, introduce him to it!” and I gave her a look. And when she asked why, it was because the jump was huge. Okay, not huge, but not intro. Cue horse mom panic about whether Poopsie is prepared to jump BN or not, yadda yadda, but N knows us best and there wasn’t much intro stuff at Woodside anyway, so off we went, and it was our best schooling yet.

C brought his A-game. He wasn’t (too) spooky, had just the right amount of go, and with a little encouragement/leg was willing to do pretty much whatever. It was fantastic. And the more confident I got, the better I rode, so all over? Just incredible.




The only big issues came at the ditches. Since my origins were in the hunters, I hadn’t done many, and while I think C may have with someone else, he’d only done one shallow ditch with me. The BN ditches might as well have been hiding horse-eating monsters and we had to follow behind other horses and even then he flung me miles out of the tack– note to self, next time, listen to your trainer when she tells you to invest in a neck strap, for the sake of your very patient baby horse.

After that, we had one last snafu at a hanging log coming out of a water. I think I’d lost some confidence at the ditches and I was kind of hoping he’d just cart me over it, conveniently forgetting he’s still a baby and I can’t “let Jesus take the reins.” So he refused, we popped over a couple of intro logs with me being more assertive as I’d been before, and then tried again. The next jump in the line was a coop and I could feel him sucking back as we approached it, but I was especially determined and with a little leg and a little luck we got over it.


A trend you may notice in the pictures– I have a consistently shorter left rein, so poor C has to deal with that, too. The things he puts up with!

But overall, when I got off, aside from agonizing pain in my knees and butt… wow. There is no better feeling than successfully schooling ‘real’ XC on a horse I made (for the most part, anyway). When I bought C, we were still working on steering and go and stop. And now we can collect and jump and it feels like a real partnership, where we both have to hold up our end of the deal. I am so, so proud of my baby horse, and how far he’s come, and heck– I think I might be proud of me, too.


no better feeling in the world!

Cheers to the upcoming season!

— M

* Pictures by Darren Nolan, (c) 2016


Asking More in Baby Horsedom

This last weekend, C and I did a little at-home schooling show, which I’ll do a recap for once the media comes through! For now, a little discussion– I’d love to hear some other opinions here, because it took me a while to realize this for myself.

Every once in a while N does a training ride on C, and I usually either watch or ask for a text recap so I know sort of what’s going on. I missed the latest one, and the summary I got was: “He was a little confused as to why I was asking him to get round, because mom doesn’t make him work that hard ;)”




Fair enough.

Immediately following that was the schooling show and our first dressage test since the UC Davis Derby back in November. It wasn’t disastrous– we got all our leads, and I didn’t forget the test– but it was just… meh. C took some contact, sometimes, and other times was above the bit. Sometimes we got bend, and other times we were straight as a rod. Sometimes we got round-ish and sometimes we were flat.

And when we exited the ring, N was like, “You need to be asking more of him. He’s ready.”


Honestly, look at him… this horse is healthy enough to be doing more, too.

But he didn’t buck! I thought. He didn’t leave the ring! And nice as it may be that those things didn’t happen, those aren’t acceptable standards for him any more. Sure, he’s still a baby, but he should be further along than he was five months ago. Our standards shouldn’t be we stayed in the arena!  any more; they need to head towards we maintained steady contact! or he wasn’t above the bit!

As N put it, we have the forward energy. We have acceptance of contact. We just need to put those things together and get him working rounder, using his hind end more, getting steady instead of fussy. It’s been hard for me to wrap my mind around not babying him quite as much, but I know she’s right– during my ride today, he was shocked when I asked for bend and for him to use his back. We had an argument, and I won (though my arms are sore, and probably will be moreso tomorrow) and suddenly his back felt an inch taller, and I could feel his inside hind coming under his body instead of trailing behind us as he dragged himself along.

By the end of the ride both of us were puffing and sweating and while 90 percent of it was a “discussion” (C: I DON’T WANT TO WORK HARD. M: Get on your ass!) the end results were incredible. He was using his body like he was supposed to.


C: “0/10 would not use body again”

I know he’s a baby, and obviously I’m not going to go out and jump 3′ with him. But it’s definitely time to step things up, and that doesn’t just mean him, it means I need to step up too.

My body is so not ready.

— M


Cross Country Schooling 4/10

A quick apology to everyone that I kind of dropped the ball with blog posts for a month in there, mainly because I’m still adjusting to my new jobs and C has insisted on throwing all his shoes at different times, so I only really got to ride a little bit in that month.

After we got the second shoe he’d thrown that week back on, I decided that I’d seize the opportunity to take him cross country schooling at Fresno Horse Park, the facility we were intended to show at first this season. N doesn’t do many intro-friendly events, so I was really hoping to get out there at the end of April, but unfortunately– as with horses– things didn’t really pan out that way.

C was amazing over the jumps. Cleared them by miles, (mostly) listened to half-halts, and didn’t do too much funny business on the other side. It was pretty much everything in between that made N and I decide he’s not ready for his first event. He couldn’t handle the trains and couldn’t relax at all. We had a lot of baby antics, and probably spent more time off the ground than on it, even when we weren’t supposed to be jumping! The first day wasn’t so bad until the train came by, but I managed to get his brain back after that. The second day, the train came by and I never got him to relax again until he set eyes on a jump. The one thing I can say is, holy moly, this horse loves jumping. N calls showjumping and cross country his “playgrounds”, and he’ll jump anything I put him in front of without stops or run-outs or even a lot of questions, as long as I keep supporting with my leg and assertive with the rest of me.


demon train tracks in the background

Which is seriously a blessing, because the “everything in between” problem can be fixed with experience and time– a “not jumping” problem would be a lot more difficult. Of course, I’m a little disappointed we won’t be able to show until fall now, but I’m going to put my money towards more schoolings so this kind of thing becomes routine for him and he doesn’t need to lose his mind to cope with it! The current plan is to school, school, school intro and start bleeding in a little BN over the summer, and if all goes smoothly then start showing in fall, but at BN, not Intro. Anyway, it’s the vaguest of plans, because if this weekend taught me anything (aside from how to not die on a leaping baby horse) it’s that things never go quite according to plan.

Still, though, definitely not all bad, and I can see definite improvements in my position, though I think my arms still need work for that auto release. We’re getting there!


intro log stack


never mind the slight lean, look at pony go!


fancy kid

I’ll have some video to throw into a post in the near future, but for now the pics will have to do!

Again, sorry for falling off the planet for a while there. C&C is back. 🙂

— M


Adverse Conditions…

…condition better riders.

I said this somewhere in a previous post (I was like, omg, quotable much? but now am too lazy to link) but it definitely applied today. It was chilly, a little windy, on-and-off rain, C was a little sore through his rear, and it was very busy at the barn. Perfect for a dressage lesson, right?

You know how some rides go really smoothly, and then the thing happens. Whatever the thing is, it’s usually something pretty inconspicuous, or if you know your horse well, you’ll look at the Silly Thing and think, “Oh, crap,” because you know what’s going to happen. So after a pretty ‘regular’ warm-up, we were just starting work on trot transitions.

Something N has been really working with me on is staying strong and tall instead of leaning or hovering forward. I am a chronic core-collapser, and we’ve definitely been working on that over fences, but it is equally important in dressage to not be angled like that. I bobbled back and forth between lean-y and semi-correct in the warmup, with N reminding me (very patiently) every couple of minutes. Shoulders back, let him carry me. It’s not hard for him to carry me at the walk. Basically, it was your average ‘this is hard so I’m half-assing it’ moment.

trot pic

close, but not quite… lean lean lean!

Aaaand then a horse being led to turnout starting making a fuss (read: rearing) right next to the arena we were working with, and C lost his goddamn mind.

In some fairness, there were also trailers going by, a horse working in the arena next door, a few cars driving past, and more horses being led to turnout. But that one horse opened the floodgates and off we went, with little rocking-horse rear-and-buck combinations, with N yelling “Forward, forward!” at me while my 4-year-old let out mare squeals.

I’m not going to lie, I was a tiiiny bit terrified. He was pulling out all the stops on this one, I swear, acrobatics he usually does once or twice, but all in a row, sometimes in combination, and some at high speeds. Every time something moved outside the arena he lost his composure again, shooting forward or sucking back; if he reared I pushed him forward (while clinging on for dear life) and sat. Hard.

My butt may as well have been glued to that saddle. I kept my shoulders back, my core strong, and my back straight not necessarily because I wanted to, but because if I didn’t, I was definitely coming off that horse. And I did come close once, having lost both stirrups and I started bobbling to the inside. N was like “Go forward!” because C was thinking about … doing things… again, and I was like “Okay, one sec!” while I scrambled to right myself and find the ultra-light Compositis I’ve been riding in (note to self– splurge on heavier stirrups).

I seriously wish there was video so I could see exactly what happened, because obviously I can only describe what I felt under me– which felt like air 50% of the ride, honestly.

eagle for blog

like dis

Here’s the kicker. Past all the naughty sillies, once I finally got my body into gear and got firmer and started really riding him like a dressage rider, I was able to channel all the energy he was pouring into those stupid airs-above-ground acts and put it towards a canter. If he wanted to use his body that badly, he was going to use it my way. If he wanted up-and-down, it would be in a round canter and not bunny hops. If he wanted to use his rear, it would be tucking it under himself instead of flinging it up. And it worked. By the end of the lesson, I felt so much more confident when the next truck rolled by, because it brought with it even more impulsion to work with.

Tomorrow, I predict a very sore and exhausted C, and honestly, he picked that route– we were planning to do whatever he told us he was capable of. N said if he was capable of flying, hell, let’s take it and run with it. When we finished, she said the end of that lesson was some of the best canter she’d seen out of C, and the first time she’d seen me actually ride like a dressage queen.

My core and arms hurt, my calves ache, and I am tired. N helped me turn what could well have been a very frustrating ride into a lesson that was productive and informative for both me and C. I realized the importance of what she’s been trying to teach me, and he found my boundaries firmly reinforced.


we’re both dweebs. it’s why we work

Guys, this horse makes me a better rider, every single day. Sillies and all!

— M