Green Horse Tales is a new series where riders share their daily struggles, triumphs, and adventures producing a “green” horse. Today, Horse Junkies United blogger Alison Thompson shares the story of her partnership with Ike.  Send us your green horse tale to hello(at)heelsdownmedia.com.


We are just a little under a week away from heading down centerline in our attempt to claim a Bronze Medal from USDF.  If you had asked me six years ago if I thought this might even be possible,  I would have snorted with a hint of derision and skipped on my merry way.

It was spring six years ago when I was faced with retiring my OTTB Cigar and my future in dressage was uncertain.  I was riding Ms. C’s Hanoverian mare who let me know in no uncertain terms that she had no desire to load on my trailer and leave the farm, so showing at a schooling show was not in the cards.  A Magic 8 Ball would have said “Definitely No” for a Bronze Medal.  Lots of uncertainty and I would not meet Ike until late July.

There has been a lot of learning the past six years since Ike and I became partners.  It sometimes feels like I really didn’t start to understand the nuances of the sport until last year when we became a competent Second Level team. Cigar taught me many things, but sitting trot, half pass, and collection were not among the lessons.  His lessons tended to be more along the lines of how to stay on a spooking horse, how to have infinite patience, and how to laugh at one’s self.

But now here we are teetering at the finish line for that elusive medal.  It might not happen this weekend,  but the possibility for success this year is real.

We had a solid lesson last week with Ms. C.  Ike is back working in his snaffle. For many things, we are better without the double bridle. I am still learning to be a little more subtle in my use of the curb.  I tend to keep just a wee bit too much contact with the curb which impacts Ike’s ability to bend his neck and his ability to maintain good jump and throughness in his canter…and as you can guess, the lack of bend is bad for our half pass and the lack of jump ruins our flying changes.  Oh the struggle is real. Thankfully we don’t need the “braking power” of the curb we needed over the winter.

This past weekend we attended a clinic with Michael Bragdell from Hilltop Farm.  There were no miracle cures for my love of the curb rein or for the tension that is sometimes present in our changes, but it was a nice outing at my friend’s farm.  Michael was very clear with his instructions (the fact that I confused my left and my right was not his fault), and he took the time to explain why he wanted you to do a particular exercise.  The game plan was to ask for some help and suggestions with our half pass work.  Ike has a really good half pass in him; we just need to figure out how to get me out of his way.  Michael had us half pass for 3-4 strides, move to shoulder in for 3-4 strides and then back to half pass.  This exercise really forced me to be clear with my aids and to maintain the proper bend.  We shall be trying it at home.

Hoping for some sunshine and moderate temperatures this weekend as we go for Bronze. Anyone have an in with Mother Nature?

-Alison