Here we are at the beginning of a new year. Wow, another year complete. I guess that means it is time to reflect on our accomplishments and progress for 2015 and set some goals for the year to come.

Ike and I really became “big kids” this year when we jumped into the Second Level arena. It is still one of the proudest moments in my riding career when I did my final salute after that first Second Level test. Seems silly to some, but after taking lessons since 2005, I finally have clawed my way out of Training and First Level purgatory that has been my place of residence for 10 years.

We also finally have a musical freestyle that I cannot wait to try in public. Yes, I still need that test 3 qualifying score before we can break loose at a licensed show, but there is always the schooling show circuit to invade. Be thankful that this musical performance does not involve me singing in any way, shape, or form.

And while we did well at First Level and had some respectable scores at Second Level this year, there is room for improvement. It is a double edged sword when your trainer gets a few trips on your horse. You preen like a peacock when she tells you what she likes, but then, you hold your breath knowing that the next words will be, “But, you have some blocks to work through, you need to be more through in your trot work, and not let him cheat on the flexions.” Sigh, you knew there was work to do, but this is the nitty gritty stuff that is mind-numbing, tedious, and technically challenging to get right.

And that is exactly what we have worked on during my last two lessons. Flex left, flex right, left, right, left, right. Now just give Ike a “fin” and he will be ready for the next Jimmy Buffett concert! But in all seriousness, it is amazing how hard it can be to achieve a proper flexion and then maintain it in motion. Jaw jutting and bracing. Neck muscles bulging and blocking. Head diving down and asking you to carry it. A certain someone sometimes likes to grab the bit and straighten his head and ignore subtle requests. Well, perhaps if the other someone was quicker at catching things, flexions wouldn’t be such a constant struggle. So there, goal number one is to be more focused while in the saddle.

Ms. C also pushed us to achieve more consistent throughness with all our trot work- straight lines (“Ask for more power!”), circles (“Your hind end is leading again.”, “Turn your horse!”), small serpentines (“Watch that hind end as you change your bend.”), shoulder in (“Where is your flexion?” “Be more supple.”) and haunches in (“Again, watch your flexion.” ” You look stiff.”) I am so busy worrying about one of Ike’s body parts and what it is doing that I forget about the rest of Ike. I suppose with time that it will become second nature, but for now Ms. C has to be that broken record. I bet some days she wants to pull her hair out. Let’s make it our next goal for 2016 to be more proactive to save Ms. C’s hair.

Remarkably, as the show season came to a close, our best scores were for our canter work. Our simple changes are becoming more consistent and our medium canter is miles ahead of our medium trot. The next step for our canter is to straighten Ike’s body since he almost always carries his haunches slightly to the inside. This necessitates me recognizing the problem and then learning to ride canter in a shoulder fore position. I had better figure it out quickly if I want to achieve my final goal of riding a Third Level test in 2016. It is my most challenging goal, but why not aim high.

Thank you for continuing to follow Ike and I as we forge ahead with our centerline adventures! May your year to come be healthy, happy and exceed your wildest expectations.

alison