Friday, December 18, 2015

2015 Year in review

It is no secret I have had my fair share of downs this last year...most of them brought on by myself just being too hard on myself and forgetting that I have a young horse that doesnt know this stuff and that I am not a professional. My early posts since starting blogging were dreary and filled with frustration. Somewhere in the last few months, even with the not so good rides, that tone has changed to be more optimistic.

I think a few things have been the reason for this:

  1. Tillie is starting to become broke and not so green anymore. Shes understanding more and more.
    Green bean Tillie the fall of least year
  2. An amazing support system that stayed patient despite my delusions and hysteria
    ...AND lots of these nights after the barn
  3. Me taking a step back, realizing I do this for fun not as a professional and start treating it that recently has lifted a lot of pressure.
    Definitely NOT a professional
  4. Finally, opening the door to taking more lessons with more then 1 trainer. This year I have really started expanding my riding with more then just 1 trainer and learned that not only is it ok, it has really helped Tillie and I find what works for us. 
It also helps me to reflect and compare Tillie to previous periods because I can see improvement that way more then when in the trenches of the day to day. Its like your own kid grows a foot, but you never noticed it because you saw them everyday. It just helps to give me some perspective. 

So the remainder of this post will be doing just that...


Miseventer moved here and rode Tillie for the first time. Note: This is just around the time we started more consistently over fences after injuries and time off. They did so well! Tillie as this point was still VERY quiet jumping. 

Me even using her in jump lessons:


This is when Tillie started to "wake up." Up until this point, she had injuries left and right that would put us out of business for a few weeks then be back in work for a few weeks. Up until 2015, she would be fairly quiet coming back into work, I think, from lack of muscle and being in shape. At this point I was so excited at having a sound horse, I took whatever I got...2014 was full of lingering lameness forcing me to question whether or not she would ever be sound.
Jan 1 smiling at having a sound horse
Riding at home became impossible with the snow and frozen ring, so we started trailering to indoors and this was the beginning of getting Tillie used to hauling so much. It also marked us really starting to jump consistently and most importantly in lessons. Up to this point all our lessons had been flat lessons. Here is a small snippet from us playing around:

One of our first D lessons jumping ever...still quiet over fences but you can see after one the sass is starting to peak out. 

Meri Jumping Tillie to get her horse fix in

February 2015 

More crummy weather and cold days limited our riding. It also didnt help Tillie developed a real phobia of slipping and was pretty close to unrideable at home in the field (which was the only place we could ride with our ring being a sheet of solid ice at this point). She would rear, throw her shoulders around and this is where I started having the "oh shit" thoughts creep in. It didnt help I sprained my ankle towards the end of this month in a C lesson which can be seen in my bloopers blog.

This is where I started to try new trainers with D being in Aiken. This trainer below I ride with sparingly now as its hard to schedule her, but here she is riding Tillie for me since I felt it would help me see someone else and how they handled her. She never pulled her shenanigans in the indoor...

The bright side, Tillie started hauling like a pro.

Me lunging Tillie in the snow so she could figure out slipping isnt THAT bad.

Meri trying to help out with calming Tillie down
More injuries benching us for a bit...

March 2015 

At this point I was in a holding pattern...I purchased my dressage saddle and had all my saddle reflocked and fitted in the hopes this was part of the problem I had chiro, massage, dentist...etc. My lessons were frustrating because it was all new to me and past the level I have ever ridden. Many lessons I just didnt get it to connect.

I have a dear friend that lives out of state that has quite an impressive Dressage background who was helping coach me virtually and listening to my frustrations. Luckily for me she came to visit and it was one of our best dressage lessons...watching these now its been tough recreating this willingness and relaxation all year.

Here is a snippet of this lesson (both Meri and I rode Tillie since a certain someone wouldnt stand in the trailer and preferred to sit). For the full playlist go here:

By the end of the month we had a ring we could ride in and D was finally back from Aiken. This marks when Tillie realized what jumping was all about and became a fire breathing dragon jumping:

The lesson from hell. Notice Tillie launching over everything like its a horse eating monster?

Me still being a worry wart and poulticing her from fear of more lameness.

April 2015 

Now I had Tillie going without injuries! WOO!! I planned my first trip to Rolex and I wasnt disappointed...It was inspiring and way more intense then watching it live. The camera and videos really just do not do the XC course justice AT ALL. I was desperate to keep her in work and feared Id lose momentum on this trip so she spent the long weekend at D's for him to ride her while I was gone.

Maybe Ill ride here one day?...not.
When I came back, I found a horse full of burrs but wonderfully soft and feeling a bit more schooled on the flat. It was wonderful. I was still struggling in my weekly lessons with D which is all I was doing at this point. I was never jumping on my own...and when I did jump in lessons it was just scary. 

SOO many burrs
I had my sites set on our first BN in May so knew I needed to hunker down and not worry about jumping my horse without D around. I begged Miseventer to come because I was too chicken to jump outside of lessons which as of late, where her tearing around like a mad-woman. Shockingly, I felt some things align...

One of my first confidence building jump schools over BIG jumps!  

This should have been my first clue that I needed to try supplementing jumping lessons with other trainers too - Not that D wasnt working for us, but clearly I was tensing or causing some of this forwardness in those and it was spilling over from never jumping without him around. 

May 2015

May marked a lot of hard lessons with D...and a much more awake Tillie jumping. But to my delight she always seemed to do better off the I decided it was time to show. My entry was in for our first BN and I was starting to feel more confident. Of course you cant go show without cross country schooling so off we went and it was just lovely. She had a few "winter-esque" sass moments but all in all it was a pleasant experience. I remember being shocked and fully expecting the demon over fences that was a bit too eager but she held it together!

Loved this moment!
Bahaha Tillie watching the jump the whole way...head between the knees.

Then our first BN came around and dressage was a bit tense, but a decent score...stadium was where things got interesting. She started spinning, literally, in warmup and was totally weirded out by the set up and entrance to their ring. The pics captured doesnt portray just how awful it felt, but it felt something like when power steering goes out on your car. I ended up getting faults because I forgot a jump while trying to half halt so hard and had to circle back.

After stadium she was still so wound up that I couldnt even warm up for XC. She was literally cantering sideways and backwards. If Miseventer was not present I probably would have gotten off...It ended up being one of our most pleasant XC courses together to date.

We placed 9th here out of quite a large field but would have been 6th if I had not circled. 

And this trying lesson with D 

All in all this month I felt like things were looking up and the stadium issue was more or less a lack of experience at new places so wasnt all that worried. I went ahead and entered in another BN early June....

JUNE 2015

June's starter trial at BN went a bit smoother but my nerves were still awful. Literally nightmares for weeks leading up to the event (like the first) forcing me to question why even do this if I get so worked up. Once I am on, I am fine...and this time I was prepared for Tillie's antics and went into the day with the motto "keep her moving." Our dressage felt less then stellar to me so went into the rest of the day just trying to have a better stadium and clean XC round. The rest of June unfortunately started to spiral downhill...

We went for a last minute XC school...I got my nerves rattled a little with Tillie spooking hard at one point breaking my grab strap. She threw a few of her balance / footing hissy fits but we got through it and I coped...

The actual event:

Stadium went much better and again any blips I felt were from lack of experience with it being our 4th ever ST, 2nd ever BN. Cross country was just as awesome. 

We left this event beating out my trainer D on his young horse (who is now going training lol so anyway,,,) and we got 2nd place!!

Bad news about this month is Tillie started thinking she knew more about this stuff and started becoming harder to handle jumping. My very next lesson with D I fell off realllly hard, Emma was present for it and I didnt realize just how hard until the later weeks when my leg wouldnt just cooperate. Also happens to be the same leg I sprained my ankle.

Despite this I was still feeling confident with an entry in for Fair Hill at BN. I was hopeful this would be our final BN and one to solidify we were ready to move up to Novice.

JULY 2015

 Well Tillie had different plans and the fall began haunting for some reason and was lingering in my brain. My confidence started sliding. Tille developed an eye ulcer that caused me to scratch fair hill. This darn thing was a pain and kept us only to flatting for a while since I could only ride her with this on...jumping with one eye probably not the best idea. I was determined though to push through and packed in so many things:

C came back for a lesson (see in Feb) and noted I was riding like I had PTSD. Since she last saw me she said I looked tense and scared. By the end of the lesson we had a bit of a break through and really worked on getting Tillie letting go to build her confidence too (her theory is Tillie lost some as well and was responding with the forwardness and sass) 

This lesson C really focused on me getting braver on the flat with Tillie and pushing our limits here so it wouldnt be so new over fences. 

I then tried a lesson with the other "C" coach who is now my dressage coach. Despite Only being a handful of lessons in with her, I am beyond thrilled...but I must admit the first lesson I was a bit skeptical. But she hit the nail on the head when she said I looked like I was riding so defensively I wasnt moving with my horse.
Inside, we could ride without a patch :)

I also took the opportunity to play around with my own balance issues which the below image is a still from some videos from this ride. 

This unfortunately meant not a lot of lessons and I sorta slid deeper into a depression realizing my hopes for novice was becoming more and more unrealistic and my horse more and more argumentative thinking she knows better. So with her eye finally better we tried jumping through a chute for the first time. Honestly, I think she enjoyed running around after and the sliding stops more then the actual jumping part.

I lost a lot of confidence in the XC clinic just from the fact I felt like I no loner had a horse that could remain calm....not until the end when we got to water. I also really questioned Tillies jump form and worried it would never be safe enough to event. While she never had rails or touch just didnt seem right.

Then, out of no where, we had one of the best lessons ive ever had with D:

This point was still pretty darn low, and I know I have started blogging by this point and my posts were always full of bleak undertones. I started trying to focus more on letting things go and not nit picking every step of every ride and try to focus more on my confidence. 

Amazing how quickly you lose it eh?

So I began riding her not always in a frame and focusing on being able to do things like the below with less hands and letting her figure it out more. The ride below was one of my more fun rides I had in the last few months. 

I closed out the last day of July with having C back out since her lesson seemed to work well for my confidence and I remember leaving the lesson excited with progress, but frustrated because I still wasnt on point and was getting a bit unbalanced jumping.


WHEW! July was pretty darn jam packed and unfortunately in early August we had such terribly hard ground Tillies feet started to struggle and her next trim she had a lot less foot to work with and was foot sore for a few weeks. So lots of me freaking out and  worrying, but I appeased myself by buying more just what I need. 

The day I finally prepared myself to try one of these saddle on Tillie, I get a phone call and rush out to the barn to find this:

So stitches got put in and we were back on stall rest. Shockingly she remained a much better and calmer citizen this time around...right up until the end when we did some kite flying the last day hand walking. 


At this point, my hopes for the show season were fading fast. I was disappointed and felt like somehow it was my error we werent improving.  August was a wash...and starting Tillie back into work was, well interesting. 

She was a tense ball of energy and cantering turned into a rodeo. I took things slow so that meant a slow month of riding and me having all these nerves built up. I was really down and feeling stagnant in our progress and decided to take the rest of the season and focus on lessons. I figured by getting more into a routine with other lessons, not just D's, we could maybe improve. 

Notice the saddle sitting on her shoulders from her head between the knees movements
But she slowly got better and we started getting nicer moments in canter! 

Then we jumped back into flat lessons...and more frustrations 


My trainer recommended trying Tillie in a slow twist when lessons werent improving too much. By the end of the last month I was starting tp feel like I was getting glimpses of a sane horse again.  I decided to why not go for Loch moy for one last ST at BN. BUT we hadnt jumped again since the stitches and knew we had tons of demons there...

First ride in the slow twist just flatting.

Tillie changed fields and her sanity was questioned by many and I felt a bit more at a loss on what to do to manage her. I also started her on depo this month in the hopes it would manage her craziness. 

Then our rides started leveling out. 

And then lessons didnt...This was our first jump lesson and first time jumping since before the stitches...and it was interesting. I just couldnt get my balance right. I was also exhausted by the end and it was noticeable I needed to work on more personal fitness.

So more dressage lessons with C to help correct that. This lesson I had no video but recall feeling quite proud. 

And I Slowly started to gain some confidence to jump on my own...this ride was also not perfect, but point was I was feeling more able to handle her and trying to prep for sneaking in one more ST. 

I squeaked in one more dressage lesson before Loch moy and was really glad I did. 

And one more xc schooling that didnt go to plan...but I held on and figured my entry was already in for the ST so I better stick it out. 


The dreaded month of the final ST. I decided to once again have C out to help my confidence, and boy did she! This lesson was a turning point in my confidence and realizing we CAN do this. It was just what I needed before the show. 

Well Loch moy didnt exactly go as planned, but my new buddies talked me into keeping my head high and finish the day. Im glad they did because despite XC being a bit of challenge with a very forward horse that was trying to bolt with me, it worked out being a good schooling experience. 

This month marks for me learning how to laugh and these antics dont mean we are failing.


So that brings us to this month...with crappy weather and a sick me has meant not a ton of riding. But the limited riding I have done trying new trainer "P" has really been a game changer. The below moments are a few highlighting my shock and delight at having a more rideable horse! 

The entire time i kept saying, this is so weird...maybe shes sick?

So I know this got lengthy....but if anything helped me outline the year. It showed me just how much I had ambitions and we had set backs that prevented us from reaching those. My next post will be outlining goals that are hopefully more realistic. **sigh***


  1. The changes are amazing. Confidence is key at least for me and I see a lot of similarities between you and Tillie and me and Stinker. Having a good trainer that helps boost your confidence is way better than having a great trainer that doesn't in my experience. I can't wait to see your goals.

    1. That means a lot :) I struggle seeing change...I am really excited now with my current set of trainers to see where we go in 2016!

  2. Great job! It's so amazing once you put the year in an easily digestible format how much has really happened and how far you two have come along as a team. I came to your blog late in the game so seeing the year boiled down thusly is great for catch up :)

    1. thanks! I started blogging later into the year too so figured it would help anyone reading to understand my reasoning for lacking confidence. I always feel like i get a bit too wordy ;)

  3. oh man, what a year and so many memories!!!! great recap too - the 12month view gives such a different perspective than the day in day out riding. Tillie has developed so much in just the last month or two, let alone the entire year. awesome job!!

    1. Thanks :) I found it helpful to see for sure. It means a lot to have your support and in our corner!