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Sierra In Training | Week 2 Update

I'm really happy that CA sends me daily updates while Sierra is in her care. I miss her more than I ever thought I would, and the daily updates, even on days off, has been really reassuring for me. As previously mentioned, I know CA as a coach but not necessarily as a trainer, so this is an entirely new venture for our relationship and I wasn't totally sure what to expect. So far, i'm really happy with how things are going.  We had what felt like a few [very, very minor] growing pains, but regardless I am still so excited to be working with her.

This past week was her first week on Sierra. She rode her once in the November clinic for a short period of time, but upon Sierra arriving at her barn the temperatures were far too cold to ride, even in the heated indoor.  Given the loss of time due to weather and the upcoming show on January 25, she really had to buckle down and put some quality time on her in order to feel like we prepped her as well as we could have given the circumstances.  We knew it wasn't an ideal situation to say the least, but the entries were paid (and not cheap) and it was our only show option while Sierra is in her care, so we're going for it. I had really hoped to attend, but given that some other things have since came up in my life, it's just not looking possible.  Regardless, CA has already aligned someone to video the classes/rounds and i'm sure she will send me a full report, though I don't expect to receive one immediately as she'll be very busy coaching and riding both days, and likely pretty pooped to boot!

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Sorry folks, I have zero new media to report
Ride 1 occurred on Sunday, January 19th.  Given the circumstance, albeit not ideal, both she and Sierra had to cover a lot of ground in a short period of time. Sierra wasn't slotted for a day off until Sunday, which means she was going to go 7 days in a row under a professional who doesn't take any shit. It was a grueling, but necessary, pace and CA vowed to stay open to Sierra's needs and respect if she felt tired, etc.  She said she needed to find Sierra's threshold so she knew where she could work within it, and she hoped to accomplish that prior to the show.  The first few days were going to be very challenging, but she would back off on Friday and Saturday.

There is a duck (and chickens) at the barn that live in a stall, and Sierra is fine with chickens but has never encountered a duck and the constant quacking really weirds her out.  She's convinced there's a monster in that stall that she has to walk passed twice a day, and there's no telling if she's going to accept it just yet.  CA reported that her first ride began very "up and down" which I found an intriguing description, but is truly how I would describe her when I show her.  She feels very behind the leg yet as though she's going to explode at any moment, doesn't track up, drops her back and so on. My normal instinct is to slow her down even more , bottle her up and try and keep her happy by not touching her, while CA pushed her extremely forward until she became tired, then made her work some more.  She put her in a French Link to address the recent leaning issue that I have had as Sierra has began taking advantage of my Trust bit, and after a few CTJ moments of CA slipping her reins and Sierra tripping, all leaning subsided.  Overall it wasn't a great first ride, but it could have been a heck of a lot worse.

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Ride 2, on Monday, January 20th, started similar in which the duck was still not welcome in the trust tree, and she got a little fussy undersaddle.  CA reported that Sierra retained her lesson about not leaning, though did get a little heavy at times in a particularly tricky exercise that Sierra did not approve of, though CA chose not to reprimand her for this as she chalked a lot of it up to her just being unfit in this case and there were pieces of the exercise that was a challenge for her as a result.  The exercise consisted of medium trot along the wall, half circle at E in collected trot, straight for 2 strides at X, then half circle the other way in collected, then back into medium once on the rail.  She said Sierra struggled through the collection and becomes a bit of a Diva when she gets tired, lol.  Overall she rated the ride a 7.5/10.  There was improvement from the day prior so things were moving in the right direction, though it wasn't exactly instilling confidence in me for the impending show.

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Ride 3, the following day, Sierra was awarded the gold star of all CA's current mounts and CA was so excited to tell me about how incredible she had been.  She informed me Sierra didn't miss one flying change, even on quarter lines to and from counter canter, and that she was in a beautiful self carriage and was super engaged mentally and physically.  She got really excited about Sierra and naturally, it was followed by the "Can I be a little harsh?" comments to which eluded to the fact that I need to become a better rider.  While tidbits of the comments stung a little, I recognize that she's right and I am paying her for her opinion. I sought a coach/trainer for this reason - because I know i'm capable of more, and I need someone to help me develop my skills so at the end of the day I welcomed her suggestions and reveled in her excitement of how wonderful Sierra was.  She told me people walking passed actually stopped to watch because she looked so incredible, and while one side of me was like "look away, b!tchez, she's mine" the other part of me was really proud that I know I played a part in developing that (because she sure as heck wasn't 'as nice' when I bought her) as well as my eye for seeing how well she could go with some work.  Suddenly my concerns for the show transferred to excitement, and I looked forward to what the rest of the week would bring.

Riding the high of Day 3, Day 4 came around on January 22nd and CA's report brought some disappointing news in that Sierra felt similar to day 2. She missed all of her changes (cleanly), and felt quite lack-lustre.  She thought perhaps she was becoming a little tired from the 3 strenuous days prior, but Sierra seemed happy to fuss around and be a bit silly which meant she wound up having to work really hard.  My must-baby-the-precious-queen brain wonders if she's getting a bit body sore from the drastic change in her schedule, but as previously mentioned, she does unfortunately need to 'buck up' a little bit, and she has a lovely day off scheduled just around the corner.

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As Day 5 arrived I had sincerely hoped Sierra would redeem herself, however I was seriously wrong.  I received a text in the afternoon that stated "Honeymoon OVER!!" with an unimpressed looking, sideways-glancing emoji.  This ensued panic in which I sent CA an abundance of responses ranging from "she was bad?" to "you better not be in a hospital bed right now". Finally she responded, laughing, and assuring me she was just busy working.  I didn't get a ton of detail other than that she was fine, Sierra was naughty and as a result had her tookus worked off for nearly 2 hours.  I later came to learn that Sierra had a temper tantrum during some really tricky exercises (half pass and travers, two things she's not very familiar with - like.. not at all) and she and CA parted ways.  To top it off, in Sierra's dirty duck and swoop motion, she kicked out and broke an arena board. Oy Vey, mare!

As the story unfolded, CA was introducing these movements to get Sierra moving her bum around and to 'break up her body' while maintaining the forward motion. These are new to her, and she doesn't quite understand that she can separate her shoulders from her hips yet.  In addition, she's significantly weaker on her right hind so she struggles more to really bare down and push off that limb.  CA introduced some half pass which went fairly well, but as Sierra began to get tired and she was schooling some travers down the long side, her asks elicited no response and she got a tap with the whip to remind Sierra to acknowledge her leg.  As CA previously mentioned, she can occasionally be a drama queen and as such, the use of the whip seriously offended Sierra (friggen millennial, I tell ya) and in one smooth motion she spun, kicked out (thus breaking the arena board) and bolted, while CA continued on their trajectory straight ahead.  Once I knew she was okay, I couldn't help but laugh at CA's descriptions of the scenario, which included words like WHAM and F&#% YOU (from Sierra).  CA said "I guess I found her threshold" and "it was bound to happen. She was almost being too good.".  

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There's no doubt this week has been really tough on Sierra. She's in a new place, with a horse-eating duck, with a new person on her, in some new tack, and is in some serious Boot Camp after being inconsistently ridden leading up to her departure.  I've seen this streak overcome Sierra only once before (when I lent her to a friend for a clinic), but it sounds like CA is no worse for wear, got back on and worked her extra hard and Sierra had yet another CTJ moment (or 10).  CA reported that when she got back on, Sierra seemed much more willing to 'try', and CA was cautious to tow the line gingerly as to not push Sierra too far beyond her capabilities at this point due to her lack of fitness, while making it abundantly clear that temper tantrums will not be tolerated nor will they get her anywhere.  One thing I really like about CA is that she doesn't get mad, frustrated or frazzled.  She gave an appropriate aid and Sierra gave an inappropriate response. No Bueno. CA could have beat her, lunged the snot out of her, or otherwise made it a really miserable experience but instead she got back on, picked up where she left off, was more ready for Sierra to explode, and it ended really well.  Her cool and calm demeanor is one of the many reasons I wanted to find a trainer with experience with OTTBs - they just simply DO NOT respond to any form of negative emotion.  I really, genuinely love this feature about CA and couldn't help but laugh as the conversation ended with "She's currently eating her grain with her eyes closed she's so tired.".. She deserved to be that tired.  

It was not the ride I was hoping for as her last ride 'at home' before heading to the show grounds on Friday afternoon, but it is what it is. CA assured me she wasn't concerned about the show, recognized she was really pushing the envelope to find that threshold and get to know Sierra's reactions to her high expectations, and the next two days would be light and easy provided Sierra was willing to do so.  The goal for Friday was to hack the rings, put her through her paces and just aim for a stretchy and relaxed ride.  She said she has felt glimpses of that 'extreme tension' I have mentioned creeps in at shows, and she thinks the best course of action is a really, really long warm up.  It sounds like at this point, her intention on show day is to warm her up for at least 45 minutes to an hour before her classes begin, not only to tire her out a bit but to get her brain a little more focused on work and a little less focused on her surroundings.  At this point, it will be interesting to see if it pans out given that I never had that option with her as our warm ups at all our shows were very limited in either time, or riding space.

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For the god forsaken suspense (mostly kidding) and the fact that this post is getting long, despite the week not being over I am going to end this update now and will do a stand-alone update specifically for the field trip to the horse show as a means of keeping it separate for future reference.  Keep CA in your prayers, people!


  1. I can't wait to hear how the show goes!

  2. That was a pretty rude reaction from Sierra! Glad CA is ok and fingers crossed Sierra gets some positive experiences from the show.

  3. Sounds like CA is a good person to deal with Sierra. Are you sure she’s not Spanish? 😉


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