While preparing the next post, I was going through my pictures (that are quite an amount now) and I thought I share some with you. Here is why I love living on the countryside

Photos: Nadja and Marko
You remember Dressage Hafl's great guest post on her definition of horsemanship as a dressage rider who shows her horse?
Well, it was my time to give something back: I wrote a guest post about the prerequisites of collection from a horsemanship point of view - focussing not only on the horse's body but also on his mind and emotions. If you want to check it out, click here.
Thanks so much Dressage Hafl for letting me contribute to your blog! I truly enjoyed it!
Honestly, I am quite proud of me these days. Though I pretend to know some things about horse behavior and horse training - when it comes to jumping I am the biggest chicken you can think of. The biggest chicken on the most gentle and most obedient horse on earth
Few weeks ago when I was wondering how I could possibly improve my balance when riding I thought jumping might be a good idea. I haven't had a single jumping class in my whole life. But if I am not able to learn it on this horse, I will probably not learn it at all: My project horse is sure footed, gentle, no runaway and though he is not too enthusiastic about going - when it comes to jumping (at least if the obstacles are not too high) he livens up. So I thought, he can just as well teach me how to do it. 
Our deal: I steer him to the jump, tell him which gait to pick, try to stay on and he does the rest. I am not telling him how slow or how fast to canter and I do not regulate the length of his stride. That would be too much at the beginning for me. As he doesn't like to be nagged at and patronized anyway, that's also a nice division of labor.

Preparing for jumping on the best horse ever.
Foto: Marko
I started the jumping project with loosening my ankles and bouncing them in trot (my goal was to get my weight down in my heels in the stirrup instead of pushing me up with the balls of my feet when posting, what I tend to do and what is a nuisance). Next step was practicing the jumping style seat in trot and canter until I felt my balance nicely over our point of weight. Also a good exercise to gain better balance is to post the trot and stand two strides, sit one, and stand two strides again. This threw me off balance badly at first but I worked it out. 
Then, we started as wild as trotting and cantering over a pole lying on the ground. When I found that this wasn't too hard on him and on me, we graduated to a cavaletto. And honestly cantering over it took some courage on my part (yes, you may laugh now). But amazingly, after a few repetitions I felt pretty secure and in rhythm. Next step was a small jump (it was higher than my knee, which means it was still kind of low as I am short. But to me, it felt huge). The beginnings were awkward with me clinging to his neck, falling over in front or bumping in his back (sorry for that!). I clearly lacked preparation and I retreated to cantering over poles and cavaletti again, practicing the jumping seat. 

Yesterday, I thought I was ready to give it another try (the horse always is) and we made it over the small jump quite elegantly! We prepared again cantering over a cavaletto and then came the real jump. I did not jerk on the reins (I most of the time ride bitless), I did not bump in his back and I did not fall off! I actually felt quite balanced and the jump felt smooth too. 
I am not at a point where I can take jumping lessons yet. I think my horse is a far better teacher than any human (I don't want to be pushed and I don't want my horse to be pushed) and I will stick to our division of labor which is not the usual riding school approach - at least as far as I know. The horse prepares me quite well: I can tell when he is ready to jump, I like the way he accelerates before the obstacle and how he takes responsibility for his strides and sorts his legs. I often don't even have to steer him - he will prick his ears and head for the jump! 
I am grateful to have such a great teacher and I am confident that we can make it to even greater heights!

Do you have any tips to improve jumping and balance? I'd love to hear them!

I have a request: I am really excited to hear from you, read your comments and am willing to answer any question, be it about horses or blogging. 
But in order to do that, I need a way to get in touch with you. So please, if you want me to reply, don't use the anonymous function in the comments but leave me an email address so I can get back to you.
Thank you!
Love to hear from you!
I've joined a blogger community on Facebook a few months ago and I was amazed how many people simply test products - most of the time cosmetics. Though I don't want to join the crowd - I think simply testing is pretty boring - it inspired me to do a post on gear
I don't know about you, but I love my riding bootsAriat ankle boots, to be precise. I am no style nut (on the contrary) and I don't care which equestrian brand is hippest at the moment. But I love these boots. They are my second pair, actually. I killed the first one by ignoring that leather needs treatment from time to time. I bought them 2006 for my first stay on the Rocking Z Ranch, Montana, so it's not only a great product but also linked with good memories. 
They cost a lot of money, Ariat is expensive (at least here in Germany) but worth every cent. I loved the first pair and I love the successor. When they died, I grieved about it so badly my boyfriend gave me a new pair for Christmas (which was not my intention at all). Without trying them on I knew they would be ideal. And they are.

I am in love with my boots. Foto: Nadja

They are just the perfect fit, they don't squeeze your toes or twitch the skin on your ankles. You can walk in them for miles without blistering. They will take a horse stepping on your toes (and help your toes survive), they will take rain and sun and --- never mind. 
These boots have become my steady companions.  
Additionally, they are perfect to wear along with jodhpurs (my second great love of horse gear. I prefer those of USG, by the way, but I don't know if you can purchase them beyond Germany). 
Years ago, when I dropped out of the riding club, I wondered why dressage riding would always take place in tight riding pants which tend to emphasize body parts you would rather not have drawn any attention to. I also wondered why I had to wear boots so high they would pinch my knee pit with every stride and stiffen the joints in my legs that I would rather be loose. Another thing I'd probably never get is why some dressage riders wear knee-length socks over their breeches even when the temperatures are so high that fetching your horse from the pasture is enough to break a sweat. But never mind, it's great to have a choice in gear and in school of thought.

With quitting the club I abandoned all those uncomfortable clothes and boots. Not all at once, but I gradually shifted to a gear that suited me better. And free of not being obliged to follow training methods I didn't like, I found horsemanship - which is the best fit of all!  

PS: I wish Ariat and USG would pay me for this advertising but they don't :)
PS: Please dressage riders out there in tight pants and high boots, don't feel attacked. What is comfortable for me, might not be for everyone :)
PPS: I submitted this post to the blogging contest "what's your favorite equestrian product?"of Equestrian Collections. I chose the category riding boots.

Do you know the sagebrush story Buck Brannaman often tells at his clinics? He lets his students ride small circles around the sagebrushes on his property and wants the brushes marked by neat trails of hoofprints at the end of the exercise. It helps the horse to find balance and collection - and the rider to work his way through a tiring yet useful exercise.

Well, I played around with it lately and I found that you as well can apply it as a groundwork exercise. Instead of sagebrushes (as I don't live in a climate where they grow) I used two cones and put them as wide apart as front- and backlegs of my horse. It‘s like a figure 8 pattern but closer together so the horse doesn‘t have to walk that much. Therefore it‘s helpful if he knows the figure 8 as with the cones closer together he needs to be quicker to sort his legs (and you too by the way as you steer him around the cones). My horse had trouble to actually circle the cones - he would rather sidepass over them to avoid the bend in his body. 

Photo courtesy PDPhoto.org"
A sagebrush or a training tool? Photo courtesy pdphoto.org

But I could help him by changing where I stood so it became clear for him what he was supposed to do. 

What I really liked about this exercise: With the cones so close together in order to walk a smooth 8 the horse needs to plan ahead where to best put his feet. You additionally ask for a certain speed and a certain softness on the rope - I want him to follow the suggestion of the rope and walk along with it. I don‘t want to have to pull on the rope to make him come closer and I don‘t want to whirl the end of the rope to drive him away. 
As soon as he understood what I wanted, he started to become lighter on the rope (as he knew where I would direct him) plus he chose more carefully where he planted his feet

So with this simple figure 8 you engage both - the horse‘s mind and the horse‘s body. That is the prerequisite for collection - I could already tell that my horse was stepping further under his body with his hindlegs to gain better balance in the turns. He was slower to put his front feet down (I could actually tell him with the rope where and when to step) which means that he carries himself with the hind legs and does not fall on his shoulder.

So you can work on your collection with such a simple exercise that makes sense to your horse (as opposed to holding back on the reins and at the same time trying to run the hind legs under the body). 

I‘ve attended a clinic with Leslie Desmond lately (as a spectator) and I will write about the lessons I‘ve learned in future posts - and in my newsletter
Leslie pays much attention to see things through the horse‘s eyes. Trying to apply that I decided a few days ago to do nothing with the horse. Just hang out, look for the subtle signs of communication and see where we would get. 
That is a contrary approach to my normal me, as usually I have a plan (or I develop one in the course). And it led me to some interesting conclusions:

- what happens if you take "no" for an answer?
- what happens if you wait just a little longer than you are willing to?
- how can your expectation disturb your horse?

If you want to know the answers, you might want to sign up for my newsletter. It‘s free, I created it with madmimi (which is a synonym for great design), it comes twice a month (at the most) and if you don‘t like it - just click „unsubscribe“. 

As you seemed to have enjoyed the last post about energy I don't want to withhold this picture from you. It needs no caption :)
Introverted people are often overwhelmed when dealing with their extrovert counterparts. These talk too much and too loud, they gesture too wildly and come too close. The extroverts on the other hand wonder why the introvert doesn't speak up or doesn't seem to keep the conversation going. They get bored and turn to more interesting collocutors. 

Same thing with horses. Some horses are rather calm characters others like to party. So it's possible that we get some interesting matches - when two different types of horse and human come together. That can turn into a source of friction. Think of the relaxed type of horse that values being left alone above all things. But his frantic owner bustles about him as if there were no tomorrow. If she's pleased with him she will energetically spank his neck with her hand (as sort of a petting) and praise him and call him "good buy" - just make a fuss. 

Guess who is who?
On the other hand there is this hyperactive hysteric sort of horse who dreams of  24/7 entertainment and who loves to do new things and who is crazy about humans. Being as energetic as he is, he might just overlook his timid rider who tries to reason him with soft "whoa"-sounds and half-baked "stand still"-commands. 

We are obviously talking about disharmony here. To turn that into harmony, the human needs to adapt. We need to dial down or dial up to our horse's level of energy. Once adjusted, the extroverted horse will register that there actually is a human being around and the introvert will be relieved that we don't disturb his peace anymore. 
We created the basis for communication. From this level playing field we can start to ask for more energy from our lazy horse and more composure from our wild one. 

PS: I know that some people will explain it the other way round. That you need to be calmer when your horse is over the top and that you need to be more active when your horse is about to fall asleep. So your job would be to balance your horse's energy. I found for me that it doesn't work. I've never succeeded in calming an excited horse by going slow and whispering "whoa". If you have - please let me know!

This horse frustrates me. Not all the time of course. But there are moments that occur every once in a while and they go like this: 

If I come to you really slowly maybe you will forget that you wanted to catch me in the first place“; „If I turn my head away maybe you will finally get that I hate that bridle“; „If you sit there in the corner and I do not come up to you maybe you will finally understand that you don‘t mean anything to me“; „Hello, I am here in my stall! Would you mind to bring the food over? I have been waiting for half an hour now“; „Hello! Have you checked your watch? You are very late to turn me out on the pasture!“

"Are you sure you want to catch me? Cause I am busy as you can see"
This horse has the amazing capacity to just not give me what I need in that moment. I had been back from a clinic - unsure of myself, doubting if what I have been doing and believed in the last years is right. And this horse has nothing better to do than to tell me to go to hell (but cater to his needs first)! That he hadn‘t any interest in what I wanted and that he was not willing to cooperate.
I know that I am at a place mentally where I shouldn‘t be around him - so I catered to his needs and took off. And I think exactly that he wanted to transmit: „Come back when you‘ve pulled yourself together.“ So everything is right and correct in a way. If you want comfort, you better visit your dog. A horse shouldn‘t need to deal with emotions like self doubt on the human part.  

Have you experienced any of this lately?