Sunday, September 25, 2022

Where Marqui comes from: Taraco Mourinho

 And now for the other half of Marqui's pedigree, her sire.  And honestly, as I went through the exercise I felt like I was looking at a whole other breed when compared to her dam.  It's fascinating how much variation there can be within one breed when they're focused on different goals.  They're all recognizably Welsh Cobs but the differences are pretty substantial.  Marqui's dam comes from US breeding, as did both of her parents.  They were all bred to perform first and foremost.  Her sire, on the other hand, is from the UK and from halter based bloodlines.  I have experience with how different working Quarter Horses are from their halter focused siblings but I didn't really know that happened with the Welsh Cob.

Taraco Mourinho, aka Mario, is an eleven year old Welsh Cob imported from the UK as a foal by his owner.  He was described as scruffy and naughty as a foal, then grew up to be a lovely show horse.  She's ridden him and trained him up the levels in dressage and he has great scores right up to Third Level.  Rumor has it that he's schooling PSG right now but his owner is focusing on Intermediare with her Lusitano stallion and materiale classes with Kiki's half brother.  His inspection noted his uphill tendency in all gaits, excellent type for his breed, being masculine without it being excessive, and for being cooperative at all gaits.  He was awarded Premium as a Welsh Cob and is in the Westfalen Stud Book I.  As he's ridden by an amateur and I've seen pictures of him trail riding and playing in the ocean, his temperament is definitely part of what sold me on the pairing.  Those that have met him describe him as very level headed but with a cob sense of humor.

Photos from Westfalen NA

Marqui is Mario's first purebred Welsh Cob foal.  Before her, he'd been crossed with WB mares with great success.  His filly Mata Hari was the #1 KDR in the Westfalen inspection tour 2021.

Photo from Westfalen NA

Mario is an import from the Taraco Stud and his breeding was not performance focused.  The Taraco stud is more focused on color and breed show performance.  The did start producing partbreds aimed at the dressage market in 2020 but the cob program is focused on buckskins and palominos that do well at Welsh shows.  Genetically speaking, Mario was supposed to be a buckskin or a palomino or even a double dilute with a smoky cream (homozygous dilute) dam and buckskin (heterozygous dilute) sire.  Naughty, naughty Mario from day one.

Mario's sire was Danaway Flash Jack.  Flash Jack was a multiple time champion at the Royal Welsh show as a colt and as a stallion and is a popular stallion in the UK for the halter breeders.

Photo from Rainhill Welsh Cobs

This is where the conversation gets complicated and I'm going to temper my comments.  Danaway Flash Jack is butt high.  Very butt high.  It's not the ideal conformation for a dressage horse.  Or saddle fitting for that matter.  It's a thing in the Cob stallions that show in hand.  Watch the Welsh breed shows in the UK on Youtube and you'll see a definite trend for the horses that are from halter bloodlines.  Part of the topline issues can be contributed to the way the cobs are presented (heads way up high especially when moving, parked out at the halt), excess weight, and lack of strength over the back.  And he does have a lovely head and eye catching look but it's not a horse built for performance in harness or under saddle.
Photo from Rainhill Welsh Cobs

Mario's grandsire is Trevallion Flash Jack and you can see why his son shared his name.  Just a tiny bit of similarity.  Trevallion horses show up in a lot of places including performance horses.  Northforks Cardi goes back to Trevallion Royal Consort as his sire's sire.  Falcon, the broodmare that just got added to the Mare Book I as Premium at age 22, also has Royal Consort as her sire's sire.  Another one where it's hard to find pictures of him, his Danaway son was much more popular.

Photo from Rainhill Welsh Cobs

Mario's granddam on the sire's side was Trevallion April.  She's a bit of a chunky monkey but was also a champion at the Welsh breed shows in the UK.  Little butt high but not like Danaway Flash Jack.  

Photo from Rainhill Welsh Cobs

On the bottom of the pedigree, Mario's dam is Paith Magical Rockset, a smoky cream mare that was well loved by her owner for her sweet temperament.  

Photo from Taraco Stud

Hard to tell much about her from this angle but super sweet face, I think Mario got his expression from his mother.  He also seems to have gotten more from his dam's side than his sire's side when you look back one more generation.  Rockset's sire was Paith Magical Meredith.  The bottom of his pedigree is mostly Paith.  Comparing Mario to his grand sire Meredith, there's more than a bit of family resemblance.

Photo from Rainhill Welsh Cobs

His grand dam on the dam's side is Paith Flying Rosalind.  No luck in finding a picture of her since she wasn't a champion and I've only found two offspring for her, one of which was Rockset.  

I had to share Mario's 5 generation pedigree because it gets a bit . . . repetitive back in generation 4 and 5.  Nebo Black Magic and Pentre Eiddwen Comet both show up five times.  Which makes sense given the history of the Welsh Cob.  Comet was foaled in 1946, just after World War II which devastated the Cob population.  He was part of the Premium scheme that encouraged owners of quality stallions to get their boys out there.  One of his sons was Nebo Black Magic who was foaled 1962.  He was so popular it's hard to find cobs that don't have him somewhere.  

Photo from Nebo Stud

Given his parents, smoky black Mario must have been a disappointment for the breeder.  He's definitely a dilute but he's not palomino or buckskin.  Instead he's the perfect coloring and markings to be a dressage horse.  Marqui does seem to have taken after her dam more than her sire (not a shocker from what I'm learning) but you can see her father in her longer neck and her expression when I get side eye.

Yeah, that expression is already familiar to me.

Monday, September 19, 2022

Rhythm is king

 aka My continuing attempts at figuring out collection with a horse that did not read any of the training books.  Any.  At all.  NONE.

Theo says he's fantastic and haters can exit stage left

It's been pretty dang amazing picking up my riding again with Theo playing the role of school master.  He's being ridden at a high standard most days of the week and it shows in his body and his expectations.  Trainer Z isn't going to put up with a lot of non-responses so he's gotten much lighter.  He's also gotten strong enough that doing the job isn't a big problem in his mind.  Trainer Z also rides him straight which means he's balanced enough to make up for my little (massive) physical issues.  When I get on him, I have a very level base underneath me which pushes me to ride in balance.  My shoulders aren't truly square since that's not physically possible but the weight is even and I'm not lurching off to one side or the other.  Kiki will benefit from this one day.

I'm very, very lucky to have this opportunity.  Theo's got a clean change in both directions now and by the time I'm given the green light to start playing with them, they're going to be pretty much confirmed.  I got to skip most of the struggles over the past six months while Trainer Z got those cleaned up and fully installed.  Theo knows me and we have our own, unique little relationship that results in us having fun even when we're screwing things up.  Might have crashed through some caveletti yesterday but it's still fun.  Just a little relapse into jumping reflexes at the exact wrong time.

Down side?  Theo is the freaking weirdest horse to ride in collection.  Trainer Z struggled with this as well until she was in a clinic and they stumbled on the fact that he doesn't feel like other horses.  He doesn't feel 'forward' in collection.  Trying to get him to feel 'forward' pushes him off his natural rhythm and the whole dang pyramid falls apart.  His impulsion powers up more than forward.  He's super willing and upward transitions are very prompt but you never feel like he's really going somewhere.  Both of us find it very weird to ride compared to other horses and at least for me it's been hard to get comfortable.  Because you must have forward!  True, but impulsion doesn't always feel like a drag car waiting to tack off down a track.  Sometimes it feels more like sitting on a rocket ready to launch.

When he's in collection you know you have all of this power but it doesn't feel like it's going anywhere.  The wild part is that it's just a feeling, it doesn't reflect what's going on.  From the ground, it looks great and he gets 7's and even 8's for the technical scores.  His hind leg is taking the weight and he's relaxed and balanced and responsive and all that.  There's a reason his simple changes are his strongest movement.  But he's got that short back, small moving front end, and no mental interest in going anywhere in a hurry.  Apparently he knows you pay the same fee at a show regardless of how long you're in the ring and he's going to get his money's worth.  When he goes into collection, his cadence slows a notch and he does his powerful fancy prance with a very active hind leg.  He'll get there when he gets there, it's not like the judge is leaving.  Allowed to do things in his natural rhythm?  He's got some serious bounce.

Nothing wrong with his collection for a mid-level horse, just feels totally wrong

We were practicing his half passe in trot now that I'm figuring out how to get and hold that collected trot.  First we did haunches in, shoulder in, haunches out, 10m circle, all at random so he was really on the aids and I could feel him moving into the outside rein on both sides.  Then it was half passe while worrying only about holding the rhythm.  It's so easy for him to go sideways, my job is mostly to set up the shape and then make sure his rhythm doesn't change.  Don't lock down, keep the aids moving and keep the rhythm, worry only about the rhythm and what the hind legs are doing.  I went to change bend and rebalance for the corner and he really started to bounce.  I glanced at the mirror and sort of yelped.  My 18 year old mutt looks like he's considering passage?!

Trainer Z laughed because yup, there's a passage in that collected trot.  She's been working his half steps in hand but the passage offers are all him.  He loves the mid-level work and gets excited when we're doing it.  He's an odd duck in that he heats up as the ride goes by and his most animated, fun work is at the end when other horses will be getting tired.  I'd been riding for 50 minutes when he decided he wanted to show me just how big his trot could be.  Not that it felt forward.  Added bonus, he's developing a real medium out of that collection.  Which also doesn't feel as forward as it should.

I feel better that even the professionals agree that Theo feels weird.  He will be so on the aids that you feel like you're on a ticking bomb but he doesn't feel like he's going anywhere.  He's not stuck, he's just going the way he does.  Is it mental?  Is it physical?  Probably both.  He's not really built to cover ground and he's a lazy, lazy boy.  If he was my FEI prospect we'd have a problem.  But for a Third Level school master, he's pretty darn perfect.

Until the fall crazy times get here.  Then all bets are off.

Monday, September 12, 2022

Where Marqui came from: Stonecroft Gold Medallion

 Hold onto your butts, I'm going to try to figure out bloodlines.  Apologies for my lack of proper conventions when discussing bloodlines, it's a learning curve.

Marqui had a great inspection and all kudos go to the breeder that made the match.  I still feel weird that the ribbon goes to me when, frankly, the award should go to the person that created the pony in question!  But she insists and I'll happily hang up my first red and white ribbon.  I do feel like I should be a better advocate for my filly and get to know the bloodlines that created her.  So here we go, dam side first since I've met her and like her quite a bit.  You get to bond with a pony while cutting out very secure yarn braids after an inspection.

This is Stonecroft Gold Medallion, aka Bonnie.  She's an 18 year old broodmare that just got added to the Westfalen Mare Book I.  Didn't get a movement score due to the flooding and her complete refusal to participate in this nonsense when it's storming out but still got a 7 as she's that darn pretty.  When the ponies aren't listening, Bonnie is generally considered the nicest mover of the broodmare band.  Her personality is more stand offish than the other mares but she will do anything for a peppermint.

She's had several foals for this breeder so Marqui has several half sibs.  2017 was the bay colt Quillane Rhaego who is off doing the hunters.  2019 she had Quillane Accolade who is in a dressage performance home.  He was just approved as a stallion for Westfalen.  2020 was a buckskin colt named Quillane Rubik.

Quillane Accolade (Gallod Auryn x Stonecroft Gold Medallion), photo from Wolf Run Farm

Bonnie's sire is Stonecroft Bold as Brass (aka Freddie), known as a driving cob that competed in combined events with his owner at the Novice level.  His breeder and owner is Marsha Himler and he was foaled in 1997.  Marsha Himler was on the board of directors for the Welsh Pony and Cob Society as well as a performance judge.  I found this picture of him and, well, it's kind of funny.  A little well placed censoring.  But he's got a big trot that his daughter definitely inherited.  Little bit of family resemblance as you go through the generations.

Poor Kiki trying to show her movement in a flash flood

Freddie's sire was Parc Dilwyn, an international champion from Parc Welsh Stud in Wales.  I've seen a lot of Parc horses in performance cob pedigrees and Freddie is mostly Parc lines.    No luck in finding a picture of Dilwyn.  I'll keep hunting but there are a lot of Parc stallions out there and it's hard to find pictures from forty years ago.  Per a video I found, the stud was still operating and competing in hand and under saddle in 2012.  When I look through lists of great cobs, I find examples like Parc Lady and Parc Rachel that are lovely, substantial mares with solid top lines.  There is a tendency to be butt high as is the fashion in the cob world but nothing extreme.  Parc horses do show under saddle and in harness as well as in hand.

Freddie's dam was Gweneth Pres Y Penrhyn, a chestnut with a wide blaze called Pres, that was foaled in 1976.  So yes, we're already looking at horses born before I was born.  Penrhyn Stud was based in Buzzard's Bay, MA and played an important part in the introduction of Welsh Cobs to the US.  Penrhyn was focused on creating solid, well rounded horses that could try lots of different disciplines while keeping the type and character of the Welsh Cob.

Photo from Welsh Review

On the bottom of the pedigree, Bonnie's dam was Thornbeck Golden Deilen, another cob owned by Marsha Hilmer.  Everyone that knew Deilen comments on how her daughter is basically her twin.  I'm going to keep hunting for a picture of her since so many people remember her but she appears to have dodged cameras since the internet became a thing.

Deilen's dam was an import which adds a level of complexity to my research.  The ones living in the USA are easier since the cob world is small and you hear about the ponies' personalities and barn names along with their performance record.  The names are also much easier for me to pronounce.  Cen-Y-Cerrig Y Penrhyn was from the UK and registered in Canada.  Deilen's sire was Cwmfelen Golden Eclipse and was also Canadian.  He was a palomino that was mostly used to produce crossbred ponies.  

I noted Dafydd Y Brenin Cymraeg both top and bottom of the pedigree.  He was certainly a handsome fella, look at all that bling.  I can see that movement in Bonnie.

Photo from

So Bonnie is performance bred with driving in mind.  She never pulled a cart and instead got some points in western pleasure with a young rider before becoming a broodmare.  Marqui certainly carries that big trot forward for another generation.  

Next time, Taraco Mourinho!

Monday, September 5, 2022

Foal Monday?

 I've heard that Foal Friday is a thing.  And I tried to participate on time but Monday is close enough on a holiday weekend.  I'm too far away to participate most weeks but the pictures from the inspection are starting to emerge and I got to visit Kiki this weekend.  So without further ado, pictures of pony foals!

All good photos credit to Spotted Vision Photography, all cell phone shots are me or Marqui's breeder.

Kiki has to go first, of course.  Poor thing trying to show her lovely movement in water up to her ankles due to the flash flood.  

She tried hard to be a good girl but you can tell she thought this was all a bad idea.  It doesn't help that her mom was so utterly done with this whole thing.  Please note Bonnie's expression as she is plotting her revenge while trotting through the storm.

Second?  Revere, the colt that enjoyed the inspection and his captive audience so much.  He did not want to end it and come back to the barn.  Retained by the breeder for obvious (omg got an 8.3) reasons.  He's a half-uncle to Avanti and Ozzy (same dam as their sire).

Third is Avanti, the little filly I waited for but ended up passing on.  She is such a personality, she will present you with her rump and refuse to move until she has received the skritches she wants.  She's shedding out jet black and will be stunning.  She's also growing into quite the little chunk.  She's going to be a strong, fast young lady.

Last but not least?  Ozzy.  This is a half brother to Avanti with the same sire.  He also enjoyed his inspection greatly as he got to run amok while people coo'ed to him.

Bonus picture of Ozzy checking in with the inspector to see if there were any other instructions.  The cobs are not a shy group.

She's not really a foal but she's still a filly and there was no way I was not going to share this picture.  Half sister to Avanti with the same dam, two year old Raleigh got an audible 'ooooh' from the spectators when she started moving.  And then a scramble to make sure she didn't jump out of the ring as she was clearly considering doing.  Spicy little red head.

And now for the candids of me visiting the mob for no other reason than I was in the area and wanted to love on my foal.  I have never been around a foal mob before and it was a lot of fun, even if I was definitely concerned that the kids were going to knock me over while jostling for position.

Rhya is the one giving me a kiss on the cheek, Kiki is the one wanting to know why I'm being interrupted from rump scratching duty.  The kids are starting to shed out and get ready for winter so they were even more itchy than usual.  Poor Avanti is going to shed her baby fuzz just in time for her winter fuzz.  

I love this picture and I'm going to look back at it a lot over the years.  Me cuddling with Kiki at 5 months old.  She's going to be quite sensitive but that's an attribute for a future dressage horse.  She loves cuddles and grooming.  Her ears never stop moving and she's very aware of everything around her.  She's going to be spicy but I think she's going to be the good kind of spicy.  You need some spice to move up the levels.

It'll probably be a couple weeks before I make it down for another visit.  She's being weaned at the end of the month, I can't believe she's already six months old! 

Monday, August 29, 2022

Possessed by demons

 Not Theo this time.  Just me.  More specifically, my hands.  This is not a new phenomenon.

Since I spent two years out of the saddle, a lot of my muscle faded to zilch.  This is kind of a good thing since it means I'm now rebuilding under supervision with a well educated horse.  All those weird habits I picked up due to survival or Theo not being at all on the aids?  We're removing them one by one.  I'm also slightly less warped through my body due to having very consistent chiro and some PT.  Trainer Z is happy to see my lower back strengthening and she no longer has to yell for me to sit up or sit back.  I don't collapse to the left the way I used to.  It feels natural to have Theo step up under the saddle and to sit on his hind end.  He's got enough forward now that I'm not squeezing and kicking every step just to maintain.  Go us.

I also got moved into rowels.  That helps.

F your rowels, mom

But then there are my hands.  Especially my right hand.  It just goes rogue some times.  We're going along, things are fine, and then something tenses or gets off balance and my hand will go up near my shoulder.  And Trainer Z is like 'hand!' and I look down like 'wtf when did you get there?  and why??!!'.  No one knows.  It's like there's a second brain in my right wrist that just does whatever it wants.  Counter canter is currently a reliable trigger for that hand going bonkers.  Need to set up a counter bend before I start the loop which does tend to make Theo shorten his neck.  The canter is now so calm and balanced that I should be able to just deal with him getting a bit short and have a lovely movement.  

I look down and my hand is in a different zip code and Theo has no idea what way I want his body.  Cue tension and collapse of the canter.  Whhhhhy.

Right now, in an attempt to get my elbows connected, rogue hand under control, and everything in a straight, clear communication line, I am riding with my thumbs turned out.  Like a lot.  It looks weird but its retraining my arms to get in and form a straight line with the bit.  

Proof that I can take flattering pictures of my long suffering horse

Words have changed a lot.  I now compress my horse rather than always goosing him up to go forward.  I know when I've got collection because it feels like he could go in absolutely any direction and I should sit very still because he WILL go any direction if I shift.  He keeps getting stronger and maintaining the frame and balance is no longer a debate.  If I set him up correctly, he coils like a spring.  It's just making a lot of things very different.  Forward tendency in the halt used to be something I snorted about.  Theo?  Forward into a halt?  Never.  Now he can and now I have to ride him that way.

The sport does keep us all humble.  Theo and I used to get 8's for our halts.  Guess what we did for about 15 minutes in my last lesson?  Learn how to ask for a halt correctly.  It improves the trot depart dramatically of course.  I've got to be ready for the depart now so I don't loose my balance when he bounces up into his depart.  

I'll take it as an achievement if Theo manages to trot me out of the saddle because his back is up that much.

Tuesday, August 23, 2022


I'm really not all that educated on horse breed organizations or how warmbloods do things like inspections or manage their studbooks.  As someone that's always had mutts or random horses met along the way, that never affected my life.  And then I thought I should get my first pedigreed horse.  Since I wanted a native pony, warmblood registries still remained something I just didn't bother looking at.  And then I got Marqui.  

Yesterday I went to a Westfalen inspection to spectate as my new filly got inspected.  Her sire is approved Westfalen and the breeder wanted to have her dam approved.  There was a total of four foals, one yearling colt, one two year old filly, one 4 year old stallion, and 4 mature broodmares, all Welsh Cobs.  The breeder wanted to get them all inspected as a check of her work.  There isn't an equivalent system of inspection for performance with cobs so this is how she's chosen to measure her progress.  Apparently Westfalen has a Welsh section in their studbook and are happy to inspect pretty, sporty Welsh ponies.

It was similar to the KWPN inspection I spectated at a couple years ago.  The stallion was shown in hand and under saddle.  The younger horses were shown in hand and then turned loose for zoom zoom time.  The cobs were, for the most part, a much more chill group than the warmbloods.  The broodmares trotted around with an air of chill while their foals made like little ping pong balls.  The two year old filly carried on dramatically before being turned loose but still, not too crazy.

Kiddery Rockstar (Quillane Authentic x North Star Suzanna) showing everyone how it's done and earning an 8.2

I'm not someone that handles foals but I tried to make myself useful doing things like grooming the horses.  Marqui decided to take a lay down nap so I had to pick through her braids and get all the sawdust out.  I ended up spending an hour just grooming and cuddling with Marqui who quickly became Kiki.  No one thought I was really going to keep such an elegant name as a barn name, did they?

Bonnie and Kiki watching while I try to get all of the hay and sawdust out of curly foal tail hair

Rain came and went as horses moved in and out of the ring.  The second to last foal was on his way out when the thunder started and the rain started to get serious.  Everyone decided to wait and let the storm pass since the thunder was getting louder.  Glad we stopped.  My phone started to go nuts with alerts as my weather app let me know of local lightning strikes, severe storm warnings, and flash flood warnings.  Uh oh.

Riding ring turned swimming pool

Within 15 minutes we were all huddling for cover as the arena went under water.  Lightning struck close enough that we could smell ozone.  It was kind of terrifying as everyone made a break for the mare barn to hide in a secure structure.  On the one hand, we've been in a pretty serious drought and we needed the rain but not a whole month's worth in an hour!  4.5 inches!  Everything was under water and poor Marqui was still waiting for her turn in her stall.

All dressed up with nowhere to go

So now what?  The inspection team swapped to getting the approved foals ID'd with microchips and DNA samples while we waited for the rain to stop.  And then the power went out but thankfully there was a generator so they didn't have to work by phone flashlight.  It really was insane the storm that blew into the middle of the inspection.  I don't think even an indoor arena would have saved us, we still would have had to stop due to the lightning strikes and power going out.

We waited until the thunder was gone but it was still raining pretty hard.  They tried to get Bonnie and Marqui to trot in hand but both of them turned their nose up at going out in the rain and did their best impressions of western pleasure ponies.  So they got turned out in a half flooded sand paddock with some umbrellas for encouragement.  I didn't really get any video since it was still raining hard enough that my phone couldn't cope.  It was all weird and hectic but apparently it was enough for the inspectors to see what Marqui moves like.

Our first picture together and her first ribbon

It's a terrible picture of me but it's a great picture of Kiki.  She got an 8.5 and was high score for the inspection.  That also makes her a Premium foal.  She now has Westfalen papers as well as Welsh Pony and Cob Society of America papers.  The inspectors just loved her.  I'm not 100% sure what her papers look like to be honest since they were all being dried in the breeder's kitchen when I left.  The sudden deluge meant a mad scramble to try to protect all of the forms.  We'll catch up tomorrow when she's had a chance to rest (running an inspection site is tough) and the paperwork has had a chance to dry.  

Yes, that's Bonnie and Kiki at the end of the rainbow

So Marqui is apparently very fancy and fell asleep while I scratched her forelock.  She's sensitive and almost shy but once she's got the idea that you're a person that wants to love on her, she's quite happy for cuddles.  She seems very curious and wants to touch everything, she just wants to get back from things that are chaotic.  She handled everything from braiding to having to run in the rain with general grace.  She was quite happy to be turned loose with her friends once everything was done.  And it's the best movement videos I got of her since the rain had stopped.

The bay colt in the video was second place with an 8.3, he's being retained as a stallion prospect.  He's going to be a BIG boy, he's actually younger than Kiki.  The little black filly got a 7.7 and had her owner within 48 hours of her birth.  The breeder had a great season with these three little trouble makers. 

Marqui's going to be a lot of fun in a couple years.  Hopefully I will have professional pictures of her soon but with all the rain, these may be the best we can get.

Sunday, August 21, 2022

Big girl lessons

 Two rides in one weekend again?  Goodness, at this rate, I might even make some progress!

I took zero pictures this weekend so enjoy a random picture update of Marqui

First was my clinic with Pam Goodrich.  I was a nervous wreck since I was watching Trainer Z and a Grand Prix stallion work on very detailed, carefully timed work.  It was a lot but also great to watch since she's working on keeping her horse straight the same as me!  Of course she's doing it in a passage while I'm doing it in a walk but it's still the same idea.  I told Pam that I was coming back from injury and would probably need some extra breaks but otherwise, it was just like any other clinic I've ridden in.  I even bought new breeches because there was no way I could ride in a clinic without wearing a belt.  Just NOPE.

Another beautiful picture from Theo's trip to the D4K Youth Festival

A lot of the focus was on getting Theo straight as we're both naturally asymmetrical.  Theo's a lot better now that he's being ridden by a balanced professional most days but he will always, always want to pop that left shoulder.  It's just the way he's built.  A lot of it comes down to making it so I'm not talked into picking up my inside rein.  It's inside leg to outside rein, not random chaos at the bit to kicking him because he's got nowhere to go with the leg.

We really worked his weaker right lead canter to chase down that bit of lateral movement that he'll get as you move into collection.  I worked him on a 20 meter circle while holding on to that outside rein like my life depended on it.  Don't let him talk me into a false hinge to the right as a 'bend'.  After a couple circles, I found the sweet spot where he shortened his stride behind while lifting his shoulders up and out of the way.  That last piece of his neck, right in front of the saddle, connected and all of a sudden he went light.  I thought the clinician and Trainer Z were both going to throw a party.  It was a true collected canter on the right lead.  We held it long enough for me to wrap my brain around the sensation, then walked and ended the ride on that very high note.

Theo discussing horse show life with the 27 year old GRP that handled the walk trot and lead line tests.  The GRP was a passport carrying FEI pony in his youth and probably has amazing war stories to share.

Two days later saw me in my regular lesson with Trainer Z.  I felt fine after my clinic ride so we agreed I'm ready for big girl lessons.  So sure enough, we did big girl stuff.  We worked on the connection through my elbows and keeping a straight line to the bit no matter what.  We worked on getting him into true collection in all three gaits since he's now strong enough and educated enough that it's second nature to him.  I just need to figure out how to get there.  I was introduced to his 'fun' trot which is cadenced, strong, and balanced.  It doesn't feel as big as I thought it should but it you settle at just that right tempo and power, you get a light, balanced trot that you can move laterally with ease.  Also judges love it.  Keeping it?  Yeah, good thing I've got a long, long time before I may consider returning to the show ring.  It's definitely a delicate balance.  

We also worked my counter canter and how to properly set it up so Theo remains balanced and knows what's coming.  Suddenly yanking him off his feet to do a counter canter loop isn't fair so he gets all the prep he needs on the short side before starting the serpentine.  I had no idea.  It was awesome to ride a balanced, calm, collected counter canter after chasing it for so many years.

I don't know how I'm going to manage it, but I'm going to start working toward two rides a week.  I'll figure it out one way or another.  We're making so much progress now!