First Lesson Back

Rio and I had our first lesson back last night since the spider bite incident. It has been something like 10 weeks since we had a lesson, hard to believe.
The lesson went really well! We eased into it and didn’t work on anything too difficult, but instead focused on the quality of the work. After warming up, we starting adding 15 m circles in the corners during our trot work to encourage Rio sit back and push a bit more. On the long sides we incorporated little bit of counter bend to focus on keeping him straight in the shoulders, as he has a tendency to want to bulge out of my outside rein. I noticed an immediate improvement in his trot work after making those few adjustments.
Don’t judge my media today- I didn’t set my phone up on my tripod very well at all. Whoops!
His canter work was the best it has been since coming back into work. Up until this point, we have been able to get fairly decent quality canter on a large 40 m circle, but every time we go down one of the long sides he reverts to falling on the forehand and running in the canter. When I would try to encourage him to lift with his front end and sit back on his butt and maintain a more uphill, collected canter, he would often break to the trot rather then sit down. Although frustrating, canter work has always been hard for him, and I knew it was just a matter of strength. At this point, I was very pleased to get in a full canter lap (with 4- m circles at each end) and have all of it be passably decent quality, even on the long sides. It sure is nice to feel progress! I can’t wait until his cancer is back to where it was before the injury.
What poles? There aren’t any poles down there!
After a short break we started incorporating canter  poles, which have never been particularly easy for us, even pre-injury. Rio just doesn’t really respect them or see them as a reason to back off, he would much rather just plow through them. After several attempts, and me finally sitting down and keeping my shoulders back  we were able to get a nice trip through the poles. Definitely something I’m going to need to start incorporating more in my own rides though; I forgot what a weakness canter poles are for us.

Rio7.21.17 from Kelly on Vimeo.

There was a cross rail bounce set up already that we popped through twice at the end of the lesson- so exciting to finally be jumping again! It was certainly nothing spectacular, but you have to start somewhere right?
On the downside, trainer did ask when Rio last had his hocks done. I was hoping that the occasional strange/hitchy step was in my head, as my bank account will shrivel up and die at the thought of hock injections on top of all the other vet bills we have accumulated. Unfortunately, it has been almost 8 months since his last injections, which we usually do every 6. I definitely plan to get them done in August as we amp up our jumping work and prepare for fall shows. Not sure how I’m going to break that one to the hubby though haha. I keep promising him that the bills are going to get better, but we all know that’s a lie horse owners tell themselves. If it’s not one thing, it’s always another. If it’s not mandatory expenses, it’s optional ones such as fancier tack and clothes and show entry fees.
Exact replica of dear hubby’s expression when I mention their may be more vets bills….



*Pics are from schooling this morning, vid is from lesson last night.

The Noseband Debate

So this has been on my mind a LOT for about 6 months. I go back and forth about how I feel. I stress about it. I sometimes google. Mostly I just stress. Here’s the deal:


Your young, green horse gapes his mouth. What do you do?


I spent many solid years in dressage land (predominately training-2nd level) where it seems like EVERYONE uses a flash. I used one on my palomino paint. He was the semi-nervous type at times, and it helped him focus.

Flash noseband. Very common sight in dressage-land


When I started jumping him, which led to eventing, I naturally transitioned to a figure 8 for the jumping phases.


Figure 8, also a common sight


I never doubted or thought twice about using a piece of tack to keep my horse’s mouth closed.


When I tried Rio for the first time, I noticed he was a bit nervous and tended to gape his mouth at times. No big deal, I figured it would work itself out. No flashes or figure 8’s allowed in the hunters after all, but I wasn’t worried. As his training progressed he still did it sometimes. I began to worry. Would this effect our placing at shows? How do I make him stop? I had his teeth done (twice in a 6 month period), so I felt pretty sure it wasn’t a teeth related issue. Am I training him wrong? I began to wonder if I should use a flash when schooling. I thought that maybe he was developing a bad habit that I should break now before it got in-grained. I agonized over what was the ‘right’ course. 

I decided it might be good to try out a flash. I also started to put his noseband a whole or 2 tighter, with a noseband chin pad. After all, I didn’t want to hurt him and the pad was nice and cushy. I just wanted him to keep his mouth shut, and I had one laying around.



When I tried to google what to do, various “remedies” came up. Some people said that schooling with a flash taught the horse it couldn’t evade the bit by opening their mouth, and had worked for their horses. I don’t find flashes inherently evil, so it seemed like a good plan. When I put a flash on Rio though, I had to put it pretty tight or he would still open his mouth. Tight noseband with chin pad and tight flash. He didn’t seem very happy, nor was I.

I stopped using both. Then I would use just the chin pad. Then nothing. Then I’d ride with the flash, and so on. It was the internal “what is best?” debate that I think we all feel sometimes. If only our horses could talk!

I read more articles. Recently one by Denny Emerson caught my eye, and he linked to another one on Euro Dressage. It’s a 4 part series, and talks a lot about the horrors that nosebands, flashes, and figure 8’s can inflict on horses. There is much discussion about how nosebands came to be, what their actually purpose is, what improper fit can do, etc. It is a GREAT series and was exactly what I was looking for. Additionally, there was a study that was also published on Euro Dressage about the hazards of too tight nosebands.  It was shocking to read that out of 750 competition horses investigated, only 7% of the nosebands were correctly adjusted to accommodate the recommended 2 fingers of space.

It all immediately made me feel like the WORST mom in the world for using a tighter noseband and flash, even if I only did it a few times. Too tight of nosebands/flashes can cause not only incorrect training due to horses being unable to soften and relax their jaw, but also neural pain, and in extreme cases nerve damage.

Overall, it is BAD. Really bad! I was wrong to think that I could “fix” Rio’s mouth but strapping it shut. One of the dressage trainer/rides quotes in the 4 part series said a noseband is loose enough when a horse can chew a treat with it on. I have decided that is a great guideline (along with the 2 finger rule) and I am sticking to it from here on out. No flash for us anymore. I will probably still use the chin pad to support the lower jaw, but on a much looser hole, not as a means to close his mouth.

Obligatory photo of the handsome devil himself

I have realized that Rio gapes his mouth to avoid the bit (duh), but that it is due to lack of training. As he becomes more comfortable with something, and more confident in what I am asking, he settles and goes quietly. He gapes when he is confused, or over-faced, or stressed, etc. I wish it was as easy as adding another piece of tack, but it’s not. It is just going to take some old fashioned time and training. I do not judge anyone for using a flash or figure 8 or drop noseband, but I do hope they aren’t tightening them too tight, and unknowingly doing more harm then good.

Who knew their were no shortcuts in horses?

As this is something I have been considering for awhile, I’d love to hear your thoughts on nosebands and how they should be adjusted, or if you have ever had a horse that gapes his mouth and what you did!

Enjoying the little things 

Every time I think I know my horse really well, I realize we still have a lot of ground to cover. Prior to Rio’s spider bite fiasco, I was riding 3 maybe 4 times a week, with Trainer also riding once a week. Although that was a pretty good amount, I’ve really stepped up my saddle time since Rio has been cleared to ride again. The new barn is slightly closer, and I guess I am even more thankful for the saddle time that I’ve made more time for it lately. 

Riding almost on a daily basis has been an amazing, and eye opening experience. I feel like I am picking up on wayyy more tiny details then I have before when it comes to our partnership. Every little thing I learn about him makes me smile so hard, and I can literally feel our partnership getting stronger. For example, I now know that when walking on a lose rein while tracking right I need to take a feel of the outside rein and keep my inside rein firmly at the girth as I gather up the reins, or else he falls in 2-3 steps. Every single time. How I never noticed this before is beyond me. Small and silly, but it’s one of those things that makes me feel like I “know” him better. 

Every small quirk I learn to recognize has me in a fit of happiness, knowing that we are really developing a strong connection. 
In other news, every time I go out there he has NEW nicks on his face. I swear he is trying to slowly kill his mother. I put AluShield on it,  making him look like a teenage boy with severe acne. 

Riding photo creds go to the amazing MM! THANK YOUUUU

Summer Goals Check-in

It has been a month since I came up with a list of Summer Riding Goals, so I feel that a check-in is in order. Checking off lists is one of the many things that makes me especially happy, so here we go!

  1. Finish up Rio’s vet care and get Amazing Vet’s ok to start riding.

Mostly completed. We did get the OK to start riding, and have been doing so for a couple of weeks now. We are still tending to the wound, and progress is mostly good. We actually got the ok to go without a wrap- but Rio’s leg swelled way up and the wound started to ooze, so back to wrapping it with a stable bandage for now. I’d like to slowly wean him off the wrap, maybe we try again in another week.


2. Focus on the basics while legging him back up- proper straightness,  reaching forward into the bridle, promptness off the aids, consistency in the gaits.

Going really well!  I have definitely been getting back to my dressage roots with Rio lately. When you do nothing but flat you are kind of forced to address any training shortcoming lol! Rio is stiffer to the right, and doesn’t like to step into the outside (left) rein contact. I have been been paying close attention to supporting him with my inside leg, especially through turns and circles, forcing myself to have a feel on the outside rein, and keeping a soft giving inside rein while maintaining a slight inside flexion. I have also been leg yielding to the left to continue to encourage him to accept the outside (left rein) and supple and activate the right hind. He hates it, so I try not to overdue it even though I always want to work on something until it’s perfect.

Rio’s step is HUGE, so I have been focusing on compacting it a bit, otherwise he can get all wonky and step all over himself. We have been doing a bit of lengthen/collect with in the same gait which definitely helps with this.

post ride photo-op 7.12.17


3. Once we start jumping, focus on the hard stuff, aka the exercises that show your weakness such as “circle of death” and similar grid type work.

Not jumping yet, hopefully soon


4. Inter-mix jump work with strength training flat work, working different paces within the same gait and strengthening the lateral movements.

Not jumping, but have been playing with lateral work. In an attempt to continue to supple and strengthen his back/butt I have started to introduce more lateral work, most recently travers/renvers, turn on the haunches, and half pass. Rio shows his immense displeasure but gaping his mouth and looking skyward occasionally. I get it though- that shit is hard! I patiently apply more leg, nudge a little, and wait for him to give and soften to the aids. He always gives in eventually, but this is definitely going to be a work in progress. He doesn’t usually resist like that- I think he is just truly confused at this point.


5. Not dying in the summer heat!

So far, so good

I caved and got one of those Equivisors from Riding Warehouse.

I actually really like it , it’s like an umbrella that follows you around everywhere. My hubby calls me “Anne of Green Gables” but he can stuff it because I like it. Between my equivisor and sunshirts I haven’t suffered heat stroke yet. Other then that, I have been riding in the evening around 7:30 pm, which definitelyyyyy helps and is way better then the heat of the day.

in brown of course, to match my helmet and boots


How are your summer riding goals going? Training hard or taking it easy?

Rio Vet Update

If you’re new to my blog the quick and dirty of it is Rio got bit but what we assume was a poisonous spider at the end of May. It got really bad before it got better, but he’s been on the mend and I’ve been riding him again for about 2 weeks now. Check out the whole saga in the health/vet category if you want to see all the gory photos! 

Good news is, the wound is much better, bad news is that healing for the past 2-3 wks has been a bit stagnant. It’s closed up- but healing seems to have stalled out.  

After discussing options via text with Amazing Vet, she felt the best option would be to debried the wound, cut out some of the middle tissue, and suture the wound shut. I was nervous about him having a procedure, which would inevitably lead to more healing time and could lead to complications.  Don’t get me wrong- I trust Amazing Vet 100%, but I also work in healthcare and am well aware that the best laid plans can sometimes still have side effects. Regardless, I trust my vet 100% so I was fully on board with the plan. If the benefit outweighs the risk, you gotta go for it.

Vet came out today to do the procedure, and great news! After inspecting it in person she decided that it was actually healing better then she initially thought and we are going to stay the course. I even get to stop wrapping it once the antibiotics course is completed in a few days!! Holla!

In summary, he is still healing well and we are going to keep on keeping on! Keep your eyes peeled for moew riding updates, and less vet ones!


I was so excited to not incur additional vet bills today (only slightly joking) that I did a quick stop by at Dover, which is always a good time!

Update (for Joanne!):

So what’s actually in that Dover bag? Nothing too terribly exciting, just some odds and ends I have been keeping a list of that I need. There are two plain white saddle pads (I like to be able to bleach them so I tried to avoid colored piping), boot trees, 2 fly masks (Rio’s have been getting destroyed lately) and a likit refill! 

P.s. for those that don’t know- always check the Dover sale/ closeout section online and make sure you get the same price in store!

Karinda K Equine Photography

The photos have arrived!!!

I am so excited to share these images of Rio, I am obsessed. They were taken by Karina K Equine Photography. Rio had a mini photo shoot in late April, and now I can finally share the images. I loved SO MANY of them, but budget constraints and all! These 2 topped the rest  and I couldn’t decide between them, so I obviously had to purchase both (screw the budget!). For copyright reasons, the photographer requests that only the watermarked images be shared on social media.

Copyright Karina K Photography
Copyright Karina K Photography


I am working on re-doing the look of the blog, so expect changes in the future and these beauties to be prominently featured!

Which one is your favorite??

Tour of the new barn

So I have been LOVING the new barn (Flower Mound Farm)! It’s on tons of great pasture and is a large 2 aisle barn with 6 grooming areas, 2 wash racks, and a plethora of tack rooms. The 12 x 12 stalls are nice and open with window views of the outside and are always cleaned super well. They also really bank the shavings to prevent horses from getting cast which I love. Not the fanciest facility I’ve ever been to, but it’s incredibly well run and full of good people! All the boarders are incredibly welcoming and super friendly to boot.

View as you pull in
One of the pastures
The indoor arena from the outside, which is connected to the barn
Front of the barn, I love the adorable porch and rocking chairs
Indoor arena (borrowing this pic from the website because I didn’t get a good one)
Indoor arena again, this time facing the barn aisles. Rio’s stall is the first on the far left.
Rio loves his stall 😊
One of the 2 aisles with the indoor at the far end
Tack cleaning area
Lounge area, which has AIR CONDITIONING! Pics of the lounge also borrowed from FMF website because I forgot to take pics of it

Larger outdoor arena. Very wet currently with all the rain we’ve been getting!
The other outdoor arena with pastures behind it

Glefke/Farmer Doping Fiasco

If you are at all interested in the H/J world and haven’t been hiding under a rock- you probably have heard at least a little bit about the Glefke/Farmer USEF suspension & fine for a GABA infraction for the horse Unexpected. There are many COTH articles detailing the issues (here, here, and Glefke’s statement here).


The short and dirty version:

January 11th 2017 a press release was published detailing the ruling. It all started with Unexpected testing positive for GABA at the Kentucky Summer Horse Show in a pre-green hunter 3’3″ class on July 28, 2016. Farmer as the owner/rider, and Glefke the trainer. The USEF slapped Glefke with a $24,000 fine and an 24 month suspension and Farmer initially received a 12 month suspension and a $12,000 fine as a “person responsible” and thus sharing the responsibility according to General rule 404.

Skip ahead to the next day- Glefke/Farmer said “NO WAY!” and denied ever even knowing about the charges or the uncontested November 29th hearing. SHOCK AND AWE. You can read their statement here.


After what I can imagine were many boo-hoos (kidding…) USEF granted G&F a rehearing.

An then, Oh Shit, not only did the USEF uphold the doping suspensions, they actually increased Farmer’s suspension to 18 months, and her fine to $18,000 (Ouch! Me thinks the committee was none too impressed with her testimony/defense).

Then Glefke came out with a public statement claiming it was a “witch hunt” and that the USEF was out to get him.

Ok, that’s the gist out it.

Snarky comments aside, I do agree that there are 2 sides to every story. There is certainly a LOT to this one. The entire transcript from the hearing is public. Part of why the penalties were so harsh was due to both defendants prior infractions, including with reserpine (a long term tranq) and Gelfke’s more recent ace infraction. Glefke’s reply, IMO, was disheartening. It seems to me that he is trying to paint the USEF as villains and the lab as incompetent (even though their were two expert witnesses from UC Davis and Cornell that both agreed, separately, that there was nothing amiss in the labs including the testing and handling of the specimens). Ummm HELLO! It’s not like you have a crystal clean record Mr. Glefke. It’s not like this is your first positive test. The worst part in my eyes? He never even denies doping the horse. Not once.

There has been a lot of concerned twittering on the COTH forums wondering if they would be held as a ‘person responsible’ if their trainer was doping their horse behind their back (as the owner/rider). I can’t really sympathize with this concern. If you have any inkling your trainer would do that- move barns now. Shouldn’t you trust your trainer implicitly to care for such precious cargo? What say you?

Also, G/F, guilty in your eyes? Or could their be some other explanation?



1 yr Anniversary

I’m a little late to the game on this one, but I couldn’t let this day pass without commemorating it- today (July 2nd) marks the one year anniversary of Rio being in my life! I may occasionally forgot my wedding anniversary, but I doubt I will ever forget the day I brought Rio home. Priorities, right?! In honor of this exciting occasion, here is a throwback with highlights from our first year together!


First ride on Rio- when I went to go try him. I was instantly in love- even though he was a gangly green been baby


Rio6.24.16 from Kelly W on Vimeo.

We didn’t really have a handle on leads at this point…

Rio6.24.16 from Kelly W on Vimeo.



Picked up the trailer from my parents, all ready to pick up the new pon tomorrow!



Officially brought the hunky hanoverian home. He did not fit in the front compartment of my slant load trailer LOL. Definitely one of the happiest days of my life.



Our first ride together. No leads, and basically only a hand-gallop instead of a canter, but he has SO clam and chill about his new situation, I could already tell what an amazing brain he had.



After spending a few weeks just getting to know each other, we officially started jump training. His first time doing gymnastics!

Rio7.30.2016 from Kelly W on Vimeo.



Showing Rio the new outdoor arena. He thought the construction equipment was maybe a tiny bit scary.



Sleepy pony adores naps


Sept-Oct 2016

Rio had some vet issues from an arena on his medial LH that he was interfering with and had minor surgery and spent some time on stall rest.


Playing together in the arena after one of Rio’s first rides back after his time off.

Rio10.27.17 from Kelly W on Vimeo.



Post-lesson smiles. Glad that Rio is consistently back and work on progressing again!



Rio and I in our last lesson with our old trainer. Starting to get the hang of small courses!

Rio.12.23.2016 from Kelly W on Vimeo.



First day at the new barn with new trainer! #ValiantFarms



Rio decides an emergency farm call is in order and cut his eye on his bucket… SMH



First gallop in the big back pasture

Equestrian tack leather halter

Video of our little romp:

Rio2.11.172 from Kelly W on Vimeo.



First horse show, and first ribbon ever- 2nd in the Eq Flat



First time going over XC type jumps

Rio4.1.17 from Kelly W on Vimeo.



First H/J show where I did a whole division (2’6 Jr/Am), nailed every lead change, first ribbons over fences

RioValhallaOF2 from Kelly W on Vimeo.


A week after this show Rio got hurt again (spider bite). He has just this week been started back under saddle after 5 1/2 weeks off, and is doing great!


Rio6.30.17 from Kelly W on Vimeo.


Despite several set-backs, this has been an incredible first year of adult horse ownership. I love Rio to pieces- he really is my dream horse. I am hoping that year 2 has a few less vet bills, and a few more show bills! I can’t wait to create new memories <3!

Stretching our legs

I’m excited to announce that Rio has been getting better with every ride.  He is taking the very occasional wonky step, but he was like that last time I brought him back from time off- I think he’s one of those horses that takes time to ease back into work. I catered him for the first time today (just one lap each way) and his canter felt great! I think he’s happy to be back in work with a job to do. Anyway, I don’t have much to say about our rides since we are keeping them light and simple- but here are a ton of pics courtesy of MM. Enjoy!

P.s. am I the only one that’s loving all this rain?! It was raining lightly all morning here (no problem now that I’m at barn with an indoor) and I loved it! 74 degrees and it was so serene and relaxing. I’ll take the rain over 100 degree temps any day!