Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The competition and goodbye

This is gonna be a long entry, so much happened during the competition. I learned so much throughout this whole experience and I want to express my extreme appreciation to everyone who supported me.

So one of the first things I learned on the trip was too always do your safety check on the trailer before leaving. The ramp on the trailer was rusty and the weld broke when we put the ramp down. I was able to put Dinah in on the other side of the ramp, but it took some effort to get the door to shut. Then, right before we were going to leave I noticed that the left rear tire looked flat. We decided to get on the road and stop at a gas station to fill the tire. Almost immediately when we got on the road, the tire blew and was completely flat. We pulled off the freeway and took Dinah out and waited for AAA to come and repair the tire. All the tires were in bad shape, so we made plans to borrow a different trailer. After the spare was put on we reloaded Dinah and drove to the location of the new trailer and switched. The new trailer was big and heavy for the truck we were using so that made for a stressful trip over the grapevine, but we just took it really slow, and eventually we made it. After a LONG drive down to Norco we had finally gotten off the freeway and we are waiting at a light and we get rear ended - let me remind you in a borrowed trailer now!! A lady came off the freeway and claimed she lost her brakes. She sideswiped two other cars and ran into the back left corner off the trailer. Thank goodness the trailer damage was minimal and Dinah was fine.

We finally arrived at the George Ingalls arena in horsetown USA about 8:30 on thursday night. We got Dinah out and she seemed to have trailered pretty well although she didn't go to the bathroom on the trip which concerned me. All of the other trainers had arrived earlier and had ridden their horses in the competition arena. I quickly got Dinah ready and first longed her and then rode her lightly in the arena. She was very good and felt good despite everything that had happened that day and her long day on the trailer.

I was given a packet that contained the pattern we were supposed to ride for the pattern class Friday morning.
The pattern was:

Enter at sitting trot
Two track or leg yield left
Go straight
Two track or leg yield right
Go straight lengthen trot
Halt and back at least five steps
Quarter turn to left
Pick up right lead canter
Ride one big fast circle to right
Lead change
Ride one big fast circle to left
Ride one small slow circle to left
Lead change
Ride one small slow circle to right
Spin 360 left and right
Trot out of arena

On friday morning there was a competitor meeting with judges. The judges were very nice and encouraging and stressed that we show our horses at the level they were ready for. I was last to go in this class. It was a difficult pattern because lateral movement makes horses tense rather than helps them to relax. When I entered the arena Dinah was nervous about the crowd in the stands. Her first leg yield was not very good because she was very nervous and did not want to go straight and just wanted to look at the stands. Her second leg yield was better. Her halt was ok and back was ok. It was a little difficult to get her to pick up her right lead but she did it. The lead change was good but the size of the circles was not very good. Our steering was a bit compromised because Dinah was really nervous about the stands. We got through the pattern, but there was a lot of room for
Improvement. I was nervous too, and I felt rushed, I think I needed to take it slower and I should have warmed her up more before the competition. It was hard because when you have never taken a horse to a show before it is hard to know how they will react to the show environment. How much warm up they will need, enough to take the edge off but not too much to make them overly tired.

After the pattern class we went out on the rural trail. There were five judges stationed at various points on the trail. Dinah was great on this ride and we received 9th out of 32 on this part. The first judge was at the top of the hill we had to get out horse to stand for 60 seconds. Next we had to navigate through a rock maze which Dinah handled perfectly. Then we had to climb up a big hill to a rock called pumpkin rock, a giant boulder painted like a jack o lantern at the top of a big hill. At the top we were to dismount and check our equipment and remount. Then we rode across the crest of the hill for quite some time. Dinah was really great on this ride relaxed and happy. Next we had to cross a wood bridge walk up 20 feet and spin 180* and recross bridge. She walked right over it. The last thing to do was we had to trot down a slight hill and return to the arena. Dinah was great.

The next day Saturday, we started with a combined leading and riding class. We had to walk over some poles. Pick up a trash bag and move it, pick up all our horses feet, mount, enter box of poles, spin 360 left, exit box, trot serpentine through cones, enter chute of poles, back sideways, walk out, walk to log, grab rope and pull log to second cone. I warmed dinah up more this day, and she was much better in this class. I think I was less nervous and better this day as well. She was great through all the movements except dragging the log. I was able to grab the rope, but she was scared of the log when it started to move. This competition was a big learning experience for me because it was unlike any competition I have ever done before. I have never dragged a log on a horse before and I did not know the proper method for dragging a log. Most people grab the rope and back up so they can stretch out the rope and let the horse see the log. I just turned dinah right away and I think that is why she got scared. This experience made me want to take some western lessons to expand my knowledge.

After the trail class we went out on the urban trail. The urban trail was much longer and had many more judges stations. Dinah was good at the first few stations. Then we got to the top of this hill and Dinah saw a group of fire fighters in orange suits doing a training exercise. She was very afraid of these guys and I had to dismount and walk her the opposite way to calm her down. It took her a long time to relax after this encounter. She was good about the traffic and street crossing. I was riding closer with some of the other trainers on this ride and it was kind of fun because we were chatting and working together. One girl went the wrong way and the guy ahead of me went to get her while me and the lady behind me waited so we could stay in the correct order. The next obstacle was to cross two very wide rivers, probably 15-20 feet across and maybe 3-4 feet deep. Dinah did not want to go across so I asked the judge, who was on horseback if he could lead us across. She was happy to follow the other horse and she did the second crossing no problem. After the river we wove back through downtown, crossing obstacles such as a mailbox, a T obstacle, and we had to weave through cones next to a group of llamas. At the end we had to enter a box and introduce ourselves to the judge. Dinah did a great job on all of these obstacles. We finished in the middle on this trail mostly because we lost a lot of points on the river crossing.
It was sad because I knew it was one of the last times I would get to ride Dinah, after the urban trail I had to wait till 3:00 to hear the top ten competitors announced. I was the only competitor riding English so that was fun. All of the mustang heritage foundation staff were very encouraging to me and they were very complimentary of Dinah. Some of the horses were very skinny and seemed like they had been pushed really hard to get to the competition. Maybe my horse was not as polished as some, but I was proud that she was happy and healthy and she did mostly everything I asked her.

They announced the top ten and gave ribbons to the top five in the classes.
All the older guy trainers made it and the 18 yr old girl made it with both her horses. The finals was a lot of fun to watch, search for Norco extreme mustang makeover finals on you tube to watch a video of the finals. There is also a video of the competition where you can see Dinah she is #11. Before the finalists performed the Norco cowgirls did an amazing drill team ride. On Friday night we also got to watch a driving demonstration, with 4 in hand clydesdales, hackney driving ponies, friesians, miniature ponies, Andalusian, and even two teams of mules. It was a lot of fun.

On sunday was the auction, and Dinah was still a little concerned about the crowd but she was pretty good. She sold for $475 to a lady who will be keep ing her in martinez to keep her older horse company for now. Her cousin owns a riding school so after she grows up a bit she might be used in that school. She sent me a nice email and said that Dinah settled in very well.

I learned so much and here are some things I would change if I was going to do it again:

Own my own truck and trailer
Expose horse to crowd/ show environment
Teach horse to carry western equipment as well
Take western lessons so I could learn western skills expected
Keep horse in place with bigger arena to work on canter
Work horse more and harder bc competition is intense it was hard to prepare when I didn't know what to expect but now since I know I could prepare better
Train on pulling logs and crossing river
Plan freestyle to highlight horse -90 seconds at best
Work on desensitizing horse to other horses cantering towards her and up behind her.

I feel good that I trained her and helped her find a good home. It was a very challenging experience and I learned a ton. I think I could do a better job if I were to do it again. I love Dinah and she will always have a place in my heart.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Thank you

I am finishing up getting Dinah ready for the competition. She is pretty good at all the skills, her canter is still unbalanced but there is only so much you can do in 90 days. I am continuing to work on her freestyle pattern and getting everything in place for our trip down south. Monday I moved her to a new pen and she seems very happy there. Yesterday I pulled her mane using a clipper blade and pulling comb at it worked very well! Darby helped me work with her in hand on standing square ( with all four feet under her body and in line so that if you connect them they would make a square - this shows proper balance). We used a dressage whip and softly touched her leg to ask her to move it to a more balanced position. She picked it up very quickly. Darby used her truck and we took Dinah on a trailer ride to continue building her muscles to prepare for the 6 hour ride down to Norco.

I am excited for the competition, this has been an amazing learning experience for me and I am so glad to have has this opportunity.
I have many people to thank for making this possible
Toni Venza - thank you for trailering Dinah from Ridgecrest back to Santa Cruz in one very LONG day. Thank you for all of the equipment you lent me, saddle, pad, longe line etc. Thank you for your continued interest and support
Darby Holden - thank you for helping me through the entire process, with many parts and for being Dinah's farrier
Amanda Apesos - thank you for ALL of Dinah's chiropractic work. It was amazing to watch you work and see the change in the horse. I was also impressed with your immediate ability to see what was going on with the horses behavior and knowledge of how to handle it
Laura Cobarruviaz - thank you for teaching me how to double longe, trailering Dinah, field trip at your house, support crew at the competition, and just being awesome.
Laura Wainwright, Roxanne Raksnys, Sheri Hastings, Lida Renaud, Jules from the barn, Jane from the barn, Judy from the barn, Jean Malloy, and my family - all of you contributed as well to Dinah's journey.

Thank you all so much!!

Please help me spread the word so we can find Dinah a fabulous home. I am going to make a poster and I will email it to those of you who live in southern California. Thanks for all of the support,

Torie and Dinah

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The countdown

It is 3 weeks till the competition. Last week I took Dinah on a field trip to my friend Laura's farm in gilroy, which is about an hour from where we live. She loaded in the trailer like a champ and was very calm throughout the experience. On the first day I longed her in a small arena and then I rode her in a full size dressage arena, which is bigger than the arena I usually ride in. This arena also has mirrors all along the short side at C, which Dinah was very funny about. She wasn't exactly scared, but she was very curious about the cute horse staring back at her. When I rode her I was working a lot on her canter transitions, trot to canter and walk to canter. I was also really focusing on her rhythm, keeping her slow from my body and using half halts, but not shortening her neck. Because of the way Dinah is built she tends to want to shorten and tense her neck an shorten her steps. It is important to regulate her rhythm and keep her forward into the contact, but not quickening. She stayed in a barn with a box stall and small run next to a shetland pony named JoJo. She was good staying in the stall and did not seem concerned about separating from her boyfriend at moon valley ranch, George.

The next day I worked her in the round pen, and Laura helped me to get her moving forward in the round pen. She wanted to look outside the pen so this was an important lesson for her to learn that she needs to focus on the person, that is her job. We also practiced turning around in the round pen, changing direction. After the round pen work I rode her in the dressage arena. I noticed that she looked a little sore on her left front, possibly because she had thrush in that foot. I worked her lightly and focused on rhythm and half halts. She also could have been sore from the trailer ride, which shows that I need to trailer her as much as possible to prepare for the 6 hour ride to Norco.
She trailered home perfectly.

The next day I worked her lightly at home first on the longe to assess her soundness, (she seemed fine) so I rode her just walk trot. She was great and is much more wiling to relax and stretch her neck down. Every day she feels stronger and more balanced. I have taught her leg yields and also turn on the haunches, which she is quite good at.

I have started thinking of her freestyle pattern and playing with a few different tricks. I am also trying to think of ideas for a costume and music.

Yesterday I had a dressage lesson with the classical dressage trainer Jec Ballou. The lesson was great, she helped me work on Dinah's walk and halt transitions. To work on the halt transitions she had me move her walk out and then slowly collect it up. From the collected walk sometimes I would ride a halt and sometimes I would just push her back up to the extended walk. The idea is to keep the forward energy so that she stops with her back legs underneath her instead of out behind her. To keep her active behind so that she is balanced and ready to move out of the halt. I also practiced keeping her round in the halt by softening her and the rewarding her when she gave to the pressure. It was a great lesson and Jec was very complimentary of Dinah.

I am trying to decide on good music so any suggestions are appreciated.
The countdown in on!
Please contact me if you know anyone who may be a good fit for Dinah, I really want her to find a great home.


This is a video of Dinah from about three weeks ago.

Thanks for reading!!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Double Dinah

Dinah has been coming right along in her training. She got her feet done last week and she also had a visit from the chiropractor. In addition, my friend Laura came over and helped me work on double longing with her.

Her feet look great thanks to her great farrier Darby! She was very good throughout the process, and her hoof health is improved. I was unsure about putting shoes on her at first, but now I am very glad that she has the protection of shoes.

The chiropractor said that Dinah looks great and has gotten a lot of muscle since she saw her last.

The double longing was a great skill to work on with Dinah. Thanks to my friend Laura for helping me with it! The way that we did it was we put a longe line through the outside stirrup and attached it to the outside bit. We also attached a longe line to the inside bit and Dinah was wearing side reins. This method of longing is really good because you can basically ride them from the ground, with an inside and outside rein, but you can see the horse so it is easier to make adjustments. It is hard to keep contact with both longe lines, but it definitely was helpful to keep Dinah from falling to the outside and to help with her balance. When I rode the day after we double longed her I could feel a difference, especially tracking right, her more difficult direction. A great training tool I would like to practice more.

Last Friday I took Dinah on a big long trail ride with Jules. It was a much more technical ride than Dinah has done before, with 2 big downhills and 2 big uphills. She was fantastic on the trail, we trotted and cantered! At the end she seemed to get very tired so I got off and handwalked her for the last little part of the trail. I did this to make sure we didn't over do it and also to help her cool down because it was really hot that day. I am planning on taking her on this trail at least once a week until the competition because it will be excellent for conditioning. I was very happy with her behavior out on the trail.

I am hoping that anyone who has friends in southern California can help spread the word about Dinah and connect her with anyone who would be a good fit for her. I really like this little mare and I want her to find a great home. I think she will be a great trail horse and a wonderful arena horse with continued training. She is so smart and such a fast learner. I am taking her on a field trip to Morgan hill tomorrow to stay at a friends ranch, practice trailering, riding with music and begin to work on her freestyle.

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012


Dinah has been doing very well over the past few weeks and we have accomplished many of our goals. I have been riding and longing her almost every day. I am still working on her balance and rhythm and trying to get her more consistent. At this point, the more I can ride her, the more prepared she will be for the competition.

I have also taken her out on the trail three more times and she handled it so well. The first time I took her on the trail with a woman named Jules and her horse Jade. We went on a short loop that went out the front gate on pavement, met a trail, and then looped back around the back of the barn. We mostly walked and trotted a little bit. Dinah followed Jade at first, and then we practiced riding side by side and at the end Dinah was even the leader! I think she will be a great trail horse. Jules was very impressed because there was a plastic bag on the trail, and she said her horse used to be very afraid of things like that, and Dinah walked past it without a second thought. She is very brave out on the trail. The only thing that concerned her was the metal grates that are on the road for drainage, which I thought was smart of her to be concerned about. The second time I went on the trail I went with another lady Jane and her horse Sheeba. We went on the same trail as I went on with Jules, except the opposite direction and Dinah was great. I even had to get off her at one point to move something off the trail, and I got back on her from the ground, which I had never done before and she was awesome. The third time I went out with Jules on a different trail and we cantered out on the trail. Again Dinah was very well behaved.

My friend Laura brought over her trailer so I could practice loading Dinah in the trailer. She followed me right in!! Such a brave little horse. I also have continued to work on getting Dinah to go over all the obstacles at mvr. I taught her to stand on the pedestal and also to walk through the cowboy shower. The cowboy shower is an archway with plastic pieces hanging down that the horse has to push through. At this point i have to move the pieces out of the way and Dinah will walk through, but I still think thats pretty good. :)

I have been working a lot on her canter on the longe and on her back. The left lead canter is getting pretty good, but the right lead still needs work. She really throws her shoulder out when she is tracking right, so I need to work on that and getting her legs aligned so she can be balanced. Turning right on the right lead canter is still a bit tricky, sometimes we get very close to the fence!

Overall she is doing really well, I really hope she will find a great home when this is over. She is a fabulous little horse. Next week she gets new shoes and Darby got me a dressage lesson for my birthday, so that is coming up soon! As always thanks for reading and enjoy your horses!!

I am going to list the requirements for the competition because a lot of people have been curious so here it is
Handling 10 points
Trainer must release and rehalter horse in round pen
Conditioning 10 points
Body condition - health and muscling of horse
Pattern class 40 points
Walk, trot, canter, change directions on rail, stop, back, pivot, lead change
Combined leading and riding 40 points
Walk trot stop back
Walk over log pole
Walk trot between cones
Reverse through shoot
Pick feet, brush horse
Load in trailer
Circle left and right
Walk over bridge
Lead change
Pick up and carry item
Drag item
At best competition - 90 seconds to show horse off
Rural trail 100 points
2 hours
Rocks, up and down steep hills
Dismount and mount on trail
Cross draw or bridge
Walk trot canter
Urban trail 100 points
Crossing street traffic noise
Live animals river beds crossing creeks
Walk trot canter
The top ten of these competitors will move on to a 3.5 minute freestyle competition judges on
Overall horsemanship 30 points
Artistic interpretation 30 points

It's a lot of stuff to learn huh?!?!

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Dinah rides out

Dinah has been getting better and better each time I ride her. It amazing to think that three weeks ago, she couldn't canter on the longe, and now she is cantering under saddle. I have been working more on circles and improving her balance and rhythm. I have started to work on canter leads, so when she gets the wrong lead, I tell her to trot, and then ask her again to canter and praise her if she gets her lead. The canter is a 3 beat gate, a lead is when the horse reaches further forward with the inside front, and then they bring the outside front and inside hind, and then outside hind. I started longing her over a pole on the ground, and then I rode her over the pole. At this point I am just trying to get Dinah used to as many things as possible so she will be ready to handle anything at the competition. One new challenge was that there was a large play ball in the arena, probably about 3 ft in diameter. She was not so sure about it at first, but I encouraged her to walk up to it and then pushed it around and encouraged Dinah to push it with her nose, and she did! It was really cute.

Today was a big day of progress with Dinah. We began with grooming and then a hand walk. It had been raining and Dinah was kind of wet so I wanted her to dry before I put her saddle on. After the hand walk I worked on walking her all around the barn, led her through the barn, into a stall, on mats, concrete, I dragged a chair around while I was leading her, just trying to do all kinds of things to get her ready to handle the competition. Then I took her to the stair step, and practiced doing a turn on the forehand keeping her front feet on the first stair. It took a little work and patience but once she figured out what I wanted she was really good.
Sometimes she just wants to charge ahead and I have to remind her to wait and think for a second about what I am asking. Breaking through the fight or flight response and trying to get her to think about what I am asking, not just to try to get away. After all of that we went back to her pen and I got her ready to ride. I first longed her with side reins. I worked a lot on transitions and she was very obedient. Then I walked her on the longe and did some leg yielding on the longe line. Leg yielding is when the horse moves forward and sideways, crossing their legs over as they walk or trot. I stayed at Dinah's shoulder and maintained my contact to keep a slight inside bend. Then I pushed into her with my body and the whip and asked her to step over, and when she did it I gave her lots of praise. It was much more difficult to the right than the left, which just shows I need to keep working on balancing her out. Then I rode her walk trot canter, worked on moving her shoulders from outside rein. As I was finishing riding some other riders came into the arena. It is time for Dinah to start getting used to riding in the arena with other horses. She is not concerned about horses in front of her but she does not like horses to come up beside her. I spent a while walking her around and between other horses that were standing still. Then a lady named Carol with a nice quiet horse help me work with Dinah around the arena and get her more used to having a horse near her. Carol came just close enough to make Dinah a little nervous but not panicked. The idea is to put a little pressure on, and then take it off and repeat. This way the horse learns that the pressure is not going to hurt them and it's not going to stay forever. The idea is to show her that it's not really as bad as she thinks, an she realized that pretty quick. We walked and trotted with the other horse around the arena both directions, as usual the right was much more difficult. After this she stood quietly about 3 feet from the other horses. She is going to need more work on this, but today was a big day. After the arena carol and I went out on a short loop around the property, the same one I have handwalked many times. She was great on the trail, I think because she was pretty tired! I was tired too after all that work, but I am very proud of Dinah. As always thanks for reading and feel free to comment!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Dinah gets a hair cut

I realized it has been a while since I last did a blog post. I think getting Dinah's teeth done has made a world of difference for her. It is amazing to me how much her teeth were affecting her whole body and way of moving. It makes sense, but seeing the change in the horse was really eye opening for me. Last week I rode her in the covered arena and we even tried a little canter! She was not so sure about cantering with me on her back, but she did it. We had a little run in with the wall of the arena after one canter, but besides that, she was very good. No buck or silly business. At this point, teaching Dinah to go forward is the goal. As long as she moves forward from my leg, I am happy with her. I am starting to introduce bending, circles and moving off my leg. I also have been rinsing Dinah off and trying to get her used to as many stimuli as possible so that when she gets to the competition she will be calm. Darby has still been watching me ride Dinah to make sure we are safe and to help me if we get in a tough spot. Darby also gave Dinah a cute mane trim, she looks very fancy now! Darby's dad came to visit Dinah, so I got to practice riding her in front of an audience.
I longed her in a different arena, to start getting her used to being worked in different places. She handled it like a champ, and was not even phased by horses riding by. The next day I longed her again in the covered arena because it was pouring rain. I was very proud of her because she was very good even though she could barely hear my voice commands over the noise of the rain on the roof. She really tries very hard and is such a good girl.
Yesterday I rode her in the jumping arena and she was great. I am starting to ride her with more contact and ask her not only to go forward but to carry herself with a little bend and balance. I was having a little trouble getting her to go forward so I carried a dressage whip. She was much better with the whip, I think I will carry one from now on. I introduced turn on the forehand, where Dinah is supposed to rotate her body around her inside front leg. I taught it to her starting with her body on the rail to give her confidence. I created a little resistance with my hands, moved my outside leg back, and asked her to step over with her haunches. She thought about it for a minute, and then stepped over, she is so smart! I am going to ride her again today. This coming week we are going to work on trailer loading and weather permitting, go out on the trail.