"And, when you want something, the entire Universe conspires in helping you to achieve it." -The Alchemist, by Paulo Coehlo

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Maryland Horse World Expo

Every year around this time, Maryland hosts the Horse Expo in Timonium, near Baltimore.

Last year I didn't get to go because I was working weekends. This year, I was off weekends (finally!) so I was invited to go with Phoebe and Kathy. Charles was able to switch his days at work, so he came along too!

Phoebe was able to get a really amazing deal on Priceline for a really nice hotel about 5 minutes from the Expo. Her and Kathy left early on Friday. The speakers I really wanted to listen to were mainly on Saturday and Sunday, so I was able to squeeze in a ride. Charles had worked Thursday night and needed to sleep, so we ended up leaving for Timonium around 4:00 pm.

Sleepy mare is sleepy.
And DIIIRRRRRTY!!! That sheet is supposed to be black!

This beautiful beaded browband was hand-made for us by Karen.

I think Lily loves it as much as I do!!
Lily post-ride. Like I've said before: I'm REALLY happy with her weight right now!!
We arrived just in time to meet Kathy and Phoebe as they were returning from the Expo. We had dinner at the hotel, and the ladies retired to go to bed while Charles and I decided to go for a spin to explore the area.

Right across the street from the hotel, we discovered a small outdoor mall. They had a Green Turtle, which is a cross between a restaurant and a bar, and we went in to sit down and have a couple of Blue Moons on tap. The place was packed with people and very noisy, as there were a couple of games playing, so we didn't linger too long.

The next morning, NEITHER of the TWO alarms I set went off, but thankfully Charles was awake and he woke me up on time so we could meet Phoebe and Kathy in the hotel lobby.

The Maryland Horse World Expo is da bomb. It's just $10 per person for the day (you can leave and come back in the same day, too), and you get to listen to and watch demos from some of the top trainers in the area. You can also participate in the demos with your horse. I have no idea how that works, but I was told that the cost is low, as the trainers need people to volunteer to ride/offer their horses so they can give their lectures. This would be an awesome thing to do...maybe next year!

Not only do you get to listen to the lectures, you have access to the Exhibit Hall. It is full of vendors of every kind of horsey thing imaginable, often with some pretty amazing deals. I scored a pair of insulated, waterproof riding pants with a double zipper and full seat like these...for $40!!

We arrived at the fairgrounds around 9:30 am. As you walked into the main building (yes, ALL of this is blissfully indoors! It was cold this weekend!), you were facing the back end of the grandstands that surrounded the main indoor arena.

I was able to see through the grandstands the head of a rider going by. Don't ask me how I knew, but I could tell by the lack of motion in his shoulders that he was on a Paso Fino. I exclaimed out loud, and Kathy, Phoebe, Charles and I all rushed over to find a seat. The Parade of Breeds was in full swing. The Paso Finos were gorgeous, and they had several different types, from trail/pleasure quality Pasos to show Pasos with their refined fino gait. We got to see the Arabians after that, Appaloosas, a couple of Friesians, and a mustang from the Outer Banks of NC (I vaguely remembered hearing in the past that there are wild horses down there too, but I didn't know they were mustangs; I figured they were related to the Chincoteague and Assateague horses).

We left shortly after seeing the mustang to go to the lectures we had marked on our itineraries. I had common interests with either Kathy or Phoebe at any one time, so it was usually two or all three of us going to the lectures together. Charles stayed until about noon, when he reached his limit of absorption of equine information. He offered to take all of our stuff to the car, and drove over to Baltimore (about 20 minutes away) to explore while we stayed at the Expo.

The first demo we watched was Scott Purdum's "Learn to Calm the Spooky Horse." He had some great advice. Most of his stuff is based on correct groundwork, but it was nice to watch him make the connection from groundwork to under saddle work, which was one of the big training blocks I'd been having with Lily this past summer. He was doing some giveaways, and one of them involved liking both his Facebook page and the photo his fiancee had taken of him working the horse in the arena at the moment. The signal was poor inside the building, so the photo took a million years to upload; no one in the crowd got to "like" it. Scott said he'd do the giveaway later, but if he did, we never heard about it. He has a bitless bridle that he designed that I really liked. It's made so it does not shift on the horse's head. I seriously considered buying one ($35, which is not that much more than buying the rope and rings and making the thing yourself), but it is not something I need, so I held off. Plus, $35 is the regular price (no show discount), so if I decided I really wanted it later, I could order it anytime. Also, I'm saving up for AERC in Atlanta come March. Those $35 could go towards cage stirrups at Convention.

The next speaker we watched was Suzanne Marshall, who talked about "The Power of Transitions in Dressage." Suzanne Marshall is trained in both classical (French) dressage (the style that I'm always going on and on about aka lightness), and German dressage (contact, sometimes excessive). She was riding a gorgeous gray Lusitano stallion in a double bridle who was also very fussy. He is an upper level horse, and Suzanne explained that he is used to really performing when he is in front of an audience. He was very impatient about being asked to just walk, and he made sure to let Suzanne know.

The Lusitano looking beautiful. 
Cantering across the diagonal. The Lusitano was flinging his head. And then Suzanne said, "If you do things incorrectly, the horse will toss his head to let you know you're doing it wrong." I'd love to learn more from her given her training background, but I wondered what the crowd would think when hearing that and seeing how much the horse was tossing his head.
We took a 1 hour break to grab something to eat (the lines for the food court were so long that we ended up just getting Bavarian nuts and frozen coffees from some of the little food stands around the Exhibit Hall), then walked over to the next building to see a demo on horsemanship patterns that Phoebe wanted to see. Again, I'm not sure what I was expecting, but it wasn't what we saw. The horses in the demonstration were Western Pleasure horses, well-trained in spur stops, that super slow jog that is more like a diagonal walk, and the "drilling for oil" canter that wins blue ribbons in the show ring.

I. do. not. understand. this. sport. I'd seen this type of horse in action at an Open show that I went to with Julie back in FL, but Kathy had never seen this before. She was horrified when she saw the horses loping. The head bob that they have to do to go so, so slow makes them appear lame. Here is a random video I found on YouTube of an APHA show where you guys can see what I mean.

They start at the jog. Yes, that gait at the beginning of the video is a jog, aka slow trot! If you speed up to 2:50, you'll see what I mean about the canter.
 I was turned off by this demo, not because of what the clinician was saying (she is actually one of the few judges that does not award the kind of movement in the video above and it was interesting to hear how the judging works from her point of view), but because of the riders that had volunteered to participate. Not that they were riding incorrectly for their sport; I just don't like the sport. Personal preference. I was relieved when it was over. We stayed in our seats for Julie Goodnight's "Use Rein & Leg to Affect Your Horse's Stride," which came right after. Julie was riding a very dainty buckskin mare who reminded me a lot of Lily. The mare was owned by one of the other Western trainers at the Expo. You could see that she was young, but she was completely unfazed by the crowd and other horses in the arena. She was very highly trained and so sensitive that she was the perfect example for Julie to show how every little shift in weight or position can affect the way a horse moves. It was basically exactly the same thing that Suzanne Marshall had been talking about, but from a completely different perspective.
Julie on the buckskin mare. You can see the English rider in the background. Check out her heels! I wish I could get mine that low.
There were three riders with her: a girl on a beautifully put together paint in a Western snaffle with movement so fancy I thought he might have Friesian in him somewhere, another girl in full Western show gear on a palomino Quarter Horse wearing a curb bit, and an English rider on a dark bay TB in a D-ring snaffle. All 3 were good riders with very different riding styles. It added that much more interest to the demo.

I had heard of Julie Goodnight in the past but had not seen or read anything of hers before. Phoebe is a huge fan. Watching this demo, I really, really liked her. I liked how she sat on the horse, as if she had been sculpted onto the saddle; I liked the finesse with which she handled the reins on the little mare that she had never ridden before; I liked how clearly she explained things and was able to show us what she was talking about. She went over natural aids (our body: seat, legs, arms, and mind. I loved that she included the mind!!) vs artificial aids (the reins, spurs, crop/whip). The thing that I really took away from this lecture was Julie's method of teaching a horse to stop by backing up. I have always sucked at backing up. I was never able to achieve it smoothly, easily. The only horses with whom I've been successful at it have been Lucero and Lily. Julie demonstrated backing up by shifting your weight back onto your seat while moving your legs slightly forward. The perk of teaching to back up, she said, is that you automatically teach the horse to stop with your seat, because the horse has to stop in order to reverse. She demonstrated on the buckskin mare. Not only did she stop with Julie's change in seat, she immediately shifted gears into reverse with barely a pause! It was SO cool! And I thought, "Lily can totally do that!"

 After Julie's lecture was over, we went over to the main arena again to watch a demo on roping and another one on barrel racing. Both sports were alien to me, so it was just interesting to watch and hear the clinicians as they taught their volunteer riders.
Roping session

Barrel racers warming up. The chestnut in the background was a mule! And that tiny pinto pony? Best barrel racing horse in the group. I wish I'd gotten a video!
After that, we were starving so we left to go to dinner. We met up with Charles at California Pizza Kitchen and devoured our food before heading back to the hotel for the night.

On Sunday we woke up earlier (Charles decided to sleep in and checked out for us; he needed to get home to get some stuff done) because all three of us wanted to see Jim McDonald's "Improve the Relationship with Your Horse." He gave some great information at the beginning about your attitude around your horse. One of the things he said was that if you have problems catching your horse in the field, don't refer to it in your head as "catching." "Think about it as spending time with your horse. Don't feel rushed. Don't hide the halter behind your back; the horse isn't stupid, and it puts you into a predatory mindset. And don't refer to your horse in a derogatory manner; think about him or her with love and respect." I know we all go through moments where we get frustrated with our horses, where we'll think or say thinks like, "Jerkface was a total idiot today" as a way to express that frustration. But he did have a point with that...horses can read that kind of attitude too. The rest of the demo was about introducing groundwork. Jim went over ways to disengage the hindquarters and the shoulders. The horse he was working with had been volunteered by one of the Expo riders, and he was a rather frustrating TWH. The round pen where Jim was teaching was right next to the entrance to the main arena, and the Parade of Breeds was happening at the same time, so there was a constant flow of horses behind the roundpen. This had the TWH bonkers: pacing, screaming, distracted. Jim was still able to demonstrate to the audience what he was trying to explain. He was very gentle and patient with the horse, regardless.

The Paso Finos standing quietly waiting to go into the indoor arena next door. There were maybe 6 or 8 of them, all ranging from show caliber to trail quality horses (trail quality horses will do the corto but not the fino). All of them were owned by vastly different people, but all of them were very well trained: all of them were standing still on a loose rein, and each one would begin to gait at the desired speed the second the owner picked up the reins. I grinned watching them, watching the relaxed demeanor of their owners riding, and the proud smiles when they went into the arena.
They were some of the few horses that were unfazed by applause. We saw many horses spook and gallop across the arena with their riders when the audience clapped. Not any of these Pasos, though.
These, my friends, are the way Paso Finos are supposed to be. There was a chestnut with a thick forelock covering his face. I got a huge pang for Lucero.
We ran over to the next building to see another of Julie Goodnight's demos. This one was "Ride With Collection and Master Lateral Movements." This demo was what made the Expo for me. I could have seen only this and have been happy. It made going both days worth it, just to see this. I can't quite explain why, but I will try to explain. As most of you who have read the "A History of Horses" tab above, I've been trained in several different disciplines, with different trainers, on very different horses. This combined knowledge of different styles and training techniques is what has turned me into the rider and horseperson I am today. In one hour, Julie brought together everything I know, gave it a distinct purpose, and broadened my toolbox. The main focus of her lecture was the use of the aids. She continued on where she had left off on the previous day's demo regarding the use of the aids. She initially explained all the different ways you can use the reins. I will share my notes with you. Julie explained that there are ways of using the reins, aka different types of rein:

  1.  Direct rein - also known as the rein of opposition. It impedes forward motion, and is when the rider pulls the rein backwards, towards their hip. (This is how I was taught to turn when riding jumpers.)  
  2. Leading rein -direct rein with no opposition. It is obtained by opening the arm to the side. It will be the inside rein or the turning rein. You see this type of rein used when Western trainers are breaking babies to saddle. It helps the horse turn without losing speed. 
  3. Opening rein - opposite of the leading rein. Outside rein. 
  4. Neck rein:     a) True neck rein - no opposition, light touch of the rein on the horse's neck. If the horse doesn't respond, assist with the leading rein. NEVER cross outside rein over the midline of the horse, as it will turn the horse's nose in the opposite direction you want to travel.     b) Bearing rein - neck rein pushes (has opposition). Used only in rollbacks to turn horse on his hocks. (Julie demonstrated on the buckskin mare. The mare would be at a standstill, Julie would use the bearing rein, and the mare would lift her front end, pivot on her hind end to make a 180 degree turn in one fell swoop so that she would then be standing facing the opposite direction. It was awesome!!)
  5.  Indirect reins: diagonal pull towards your midline. (This is how I was taught to turn Paso Finos, and the way that you're also supposed to use the reins when riding French classical dressage. This is the first time that anyone has really explained to me why you would use this method vs others!)     a) In front of withers - turn hand as if turning key, no opposition (no backward pull). Hand doesn't cross midline. Touches horse's neck in front of withers. Moves shoulder. Indirect can be used with opening rein as an invitation to move in that direction.     b) Behind the withers - has opposition. Hand moves towards your opposite shoulder; same movement as for the one-rein stop. Moves the horse's hips. 
Julie then went over assisting all of these with her legs, which she had been doing all along as she demonstrated. You can't use the reins without using your legs as well, of course. .
She then applied everything she had discussed to lateral movements, like haunches-in, leg yields and side passes. She warned that her method will not win you awards in the modern dressage arena, as it is Western based, but it will be helpful for you when teaching your horse lateral movements, training them for stuff such as reining, or just working on suppling as a warm-up prior to jumping or while out on the trail. And then, she had her three riders demonstrate what she had been teaching us. It was the same three riders as the day before: the girl on the tall paint gelding, the rider on the palomino Quarter Horse, and the English rider on the Thoroughbred. All three horses responded quietly and effectively to the aids as demonstrated by Julie.

The buckskin mare leg yielding as Julie demonstrated correct leg position and cues for this lateral movement.
Western rider on palomino.
English rider on the TB.
My favorite pair. That horse was beautiful; he had very fancy round movement, more like what you would see in a Friesian or Spanish horse. I liked the clip job; it made him appear tri-colored! And his owner was a lovely rider. Quiet, relaxed, smiling when her horse did things correctly and patting him. Soft hands and gentle leg aids. You could see the bond they had. He was a young horse still in training, but he was a solid citizen; as sensitive and calm as the buckskin mare ridden by Julie, despite the crowd in the stands.
It was an enlightening lecture, and I was dying to get back home to practice with Lily! Kathy stayed to watch a gaited horse demo, while Phoebe and I went back to the round pen to watch Colleen Kelly's "Teach Pirouettes With Seat and Posture." This one was a huge letdown. Colleen Kelly had been unable to come due to some serious health reasons, but the substitute that had come in her place wasn't quite what we'd been expecting. She talked about rider biomechanics, and how the rider's posture in the saddle affects the horse's movement and way of going. She then went on to have her rider demonstrate what she was talking about. The rider was a good rider on an unflappable horse. Why was this a problem? Because no matter how the rider contorted in the saddle, the horse knew his job and just kept on trucking. He was not at all affected by demonstrations of bad posture, so the lecture wasn't quite as effective as it could have been if the horse had been more sensitive. The substitute explained how good posture and a balanced seat are essential for upper level movements, but Phoebe and I commented after the lecture that we really had been hoping to see this applied to actually achieving a pirouette, even if only at a walk, and that never happened.

After this lecture, Phoebe and I went back to the Exhibit Hall to look around some more. 

I wanted to try on helmets (still looking for a schooling helmet for the trails, but I'm demanding about fit, especially having a round head). Phoebe came with me and we found one large booth that had helmets. I tried several on, but none of them was quite right. I need to stop by a tack shop at some point and really start trying them on to know what fits and what doesn't, so at least I'll know what to get when I decide I'm ready to order the helmet. They didn't have any of the Ovation or Tipperary helmets (the Sportage doesn't work with my head shape; I'd like to try their other models) at the Expo. Bummer.

Phoebe bought a pair of beautiful hand-made ivory horse earrings from a lady that makes them by hand. I was good for the Expo: I had a very limited budget in cash for food for Charles and me, and one thing from the Exhibit Hall, but only if I found something I absolutely needed. All I purchased were the insulated riding overpants, as given our current weather conditions (8" of snow, with more to come tomorrow), I'm going to be using them plenty. It was fun to walk around and see what all of the vendors had. They had a Freeform Treeless Saddle booth, several sheepskin products booths, HorseLoverz had almost an entire corner of the Exhibit Hall, and a lot of local shops and stores were selling their wares, from handmade tack to grain and hay.

We returned to the roundpen area to meet up with Kathy and watch another demo by Scott Purdum titled, "Overcome Fear on the Trail." It ended up turning into a repeat of the previous session of his that we had watched, in part due to the horse that had been volunteered for him to work with. But because of this, it ended up being just as interesting. The horse in question was a huge Appaloosa gelding currently owned by Days End, the rescue where Kathy and Phoebe used to volunteer at, where they adopted their horses from. (If you live in the MD/VA/DC area and are looking for a horse, go check them out. They have some REALLY NICE horses available for adoption, including some Polish Arabs from bloodlines that are rare in this country. The Arabians were rescued from a hoarder situation. I want Gabe. And Mika. And Nabu. And Poptart. Ahhh...if only we owned land...) Day's End always participates with some of their available horses in the exhibits to show how versatile and useful rescued horses can be. Well, this big Appaloosa had bucked off his rider in the previous day's exhibit! So he was volunteered for Scott to work with. This demo took place in the roundpen next to the main arena. There were more exhibits going on, so again there was a constant flow of horses past the roundpen. The Appaloosa kept charging the pen gate and throwing his head over the top rails. Scott tried to start his lecture, but the gelding's anxiety was escalating as his fiancee and assistants kept having to shoo him away from the fence. Scott paused his lecture, apologized to the audience for having to stop, and started working the horse. This horse had never seen Scott before. Scott had never seen him before. The horse actually wanted nothing to do with Scott initially and kept trying to charge the roundpen fence. I wish I had thought to take photos at that moment. Scott kept telling him to work until the horse was trotting around him. Albeit with some attitude - tossing his head and looking at everything except Scott, but trotting at his request.

 Scott drove him forward into a faster trot, until the horse started to want to slow down. Scott had him trot a little longer. Then Scott stopped and the horse asked to come in. Something had clicked in the gelding's head and you could see it in his expression. Scott had him stand and wait, pausing to talk to the audience and explain what was going on, then asked the horse to work again. He did. And it was a completely different horse: head down, licking and chewing, one ear turned towards the trainer. This time, Scott asked him to stop. Again the horse wanted to come in. Scott made him wait and rest at a distance. He explained, as he had in the first demo we had listened, about "giving the horse affection." Not by petting him or giving him treats, but by letting him be.

The Appaloosa says, "As you wish, Herd Leader."
It was pretty incredible to watch. The rest of the lecture ended up being pretty much a repeat of the day before, in part due to the circumstances, but also in part because it comes down to the same thing: if your horse is afraid, you need to establish a better relationship on the ground and then transfer that to under saddle work. Again, this was the big block I was having with Lily a few months ago, and it was nice to see this done a second time.

The gelding walking quietly next to Scott. He had almost run over several people when being put into the roundpen. Completely different horse!
Scott finally mounted up, and the gelding waited patiently for a command. Scott then put him through is paces. One of the goals was to try to work the gelding through bucking at the canter. He tossed his head once as he was transitioning into the faster gait, but never did buck. Of course it was a small round pen, and Scott did mention that it was likely the horse just didn't have enough room to act out. But he talked about riding the problem horse forward and letting him go into the really fast trot before cantering because the horse would often tell you at that moment whether he was thinking about acting out at the canter. This is an incorrect way to transition from trot to canter, but Scott did have a point when it came to problem horses, and we did get to see it in action.

 FYI: that horse responded great to the bitless bridle.

They repeated the giveway from the day before. I was able to go into Facebook and "like" the photo from the current lecture. And then I saw Julio Mendoza, one of the big local dressage trainers who had a booth at the Expo, ride past the round pen on a gorgeous palomino Lusitano decked out in a traditional Portuguese bridle and carrying a garrocha pole. Garrocha poles are used by Spanish vaqueros to move wild bulls. They use the long poles instead of ropes, and their horses are highly trained. Doma vaquera, the training used on Spanish vaquero horses, is dressage on steroids. It brings together skills from reining and Alta Escuela. The horses are worked often at maximum collection and ridden one-handed in double bridles. They can neck rein, but they can also be turned by minuscule finger movements on the reins, as they are held with an overhand grip. Here is a doma vaquera horse in action. Jesus Morales is among the sport's current top riders. Here he is putting this horse through the movements:


Pretty freaking awesome, right? Dressage with a working purpose. So add to those movements the presence of a 10'+ pole with which horse and rider dance. That is the sport of garrocha. I probably never would have heard about it if I hadn't started looking to learn more about classical dressage. But once I learned about it, it's been one of those things that I have been secretly yearning to try out for a long time. Except, as far as I knew, it was not yet a known sport in this country. Until the moment I saw Julio Mendoza with the garrocha pole waiting to the go into the main arena. I gasped. "Ohmygodohmygodohmygod!! I want to see that!!" Kathy and Phoebe laughed. "Go see it!" they said, and moved so I could jump down from the stands. Scott was wrapping up and about to do his giveaway. I never win anything, so of course the last thing on my mind was the notion that I could possibly be the winner of the giveaway. I was able to catch Julio as he was preparing to go into the arena.
Check out the horse's bridle!

I got a huge kick out of watching that in person! And knowing that a trainer in this area knows what that is!...

And remember how I said I never win anything?

I won the damn bitless bridle I'd been drooling over. Except I wasn't there to receive it when Scott gave it away, so it went to someone else! DAMMIT!

Oh well.

And here's a garrocha video from the 2009 IALHA show. This is garrocha done by someone who specializes in it. You're welcome. Enjoy!

Afterwards, Phoebe had one more lecture she wanted to attend, but Kathy's and my brains were fried, so we just wandered around the Exhibit Hall, looking for caramel apples. When we finally found them, they were $8 apiece. Maybe we're stingy, but that seemed like a lot of money for caramel-covered apple. We decided the calories weren't worth the price.

We met up with Phoebe once her lecture was over, and piled into Phoebe's car for the 1-hour drive home. It was a wonderful horsey weekend spent with my two best barn buddies.

Charles picked me up at the barn that evening...after I'd gotten a ride on Lily.

More on that to follow!


  1. Very cool! Sounds like the Equine Affaire we have in Ohio, which is pretty much my favorite thing ever.

    1. Yes! I think ours is a smaller version of Equine Affaire. I'd love to go to yours some day!

  2. I want to come! What a great performance to watch with the Lusitano horse, and of course, you know that is the type of thing I want to teach Ashke!

    We have the Rocky Mountain Expo, which I will NOT be taking T to, since his attention span is not more than 12 seconds. Ours is in March. Some of the people I know (farrier, one of the trainers in our barn) actually participated last year.

    Sounds like you had a great weekend and I can't wait to hear about your ride.

    1. I knew you in particular would enjoy that video! ;)

      How awesome about the Rocky Mountain Expo! The only one I'd ever heard of before was Equine Affaire, so I was really excited to learn about MD's. They have the Horse World Expo in PA as well, but in February. Some people say that one is bigger. We didn't have any fun equine expos in FL; the closest thing I had ever seen to this was the North American Veterinary Conference in Orlando. Same thing, but for vets and techs, and 30x the price!

  3. You have NO idea how glad to hear that you went to this Expo and attended two of Julie's lectures!! Let me explain...

    I am the Public Relations person for Millcreek Compact Equine Manure Spreaders. As such, I run their FB Page and Twitter accounts (www.Facebook.com/MillcreekSpreaders, @MillcreekSpread - come join us for lots of horsey fun and information), advise on advertising and promotions, and best of all - I was the person who put together our new endorsement deal with Julie!!

    I went looking for exactly the right person to vouch for our company and its (truly excellent) products. I was not interested in a "huckster" big-name clinician (I bet you know who I'm thinking of), and I wanted the person to appeal to a broad audience. Enter Julie, who works with riders and horses from all disciplines, has a fantastic reputation, AND is a very honest, trustworthy person to boot. What was really amazing is she actually owns one of our spreaders and has for the past eight years, so when she says she uses our equipment she means it!

    Believe it or not, I have not actually seen or met Julie in person yet (I'm in MO, she's based in CO, and Millcreek is in PA - the wonders of the Internet). We have talked on the phone, though, and she's thoroughly down-to-earth and nice. I mainly communicate with the other members of her team and they're also great to work with. Millcreek's owner and his wife were able to go meet her at the Expo and were very duly impressed (they watched her Friday afternoon presentation).

    Anyway, I am absolutely delighted that you were so happy with her demos. In fact, I am going to forward the link to this blog post to Julie so she can read what you said for herself! I have no doubt that she'll be pleased and gratified to know that what she showed you will be so valuable.

    One thing I bet you don't know: right before Julie got on the plane to go to MD, her dearly beloved 30+ year-old mare Pepsea passed away. I am so glad she was able to be there with her horse, but I feel so bad for her that she had to put on a brave face all weekend and do her thing while her heart was breaking. Makes her professional appearance all the more impressive, no?

    Thank you again for this terrific write-up, and I sure am glad I discovered your blog in the nick of time!

    1. RiderWriter, your comment made my day! Thank you for sharing the post link with Julie! I hope she likes it. And how awful that she lost Pepsea right before the trip to MD! It's wonderful that she was able to say good-bye, but what horrible timing. It's hard going to work when you're grieving for a lost partner. It certainly does make her professionalism even more commendable!

      Thank you again for your comment!

  4. I'm glad you enjoyed your time at the Expo:) I remember my head hurting after the last time I went, just due to all the overload of demos and products, I think:) And I hear you about the Western pleasure crap. I honestly think it is abusive the way they make those horses canter. Most of the time, it ends up being a four-beat canter because the horse just literally can't canter that slow and the poor thing is so strung out because no effort is made at collection or balance.

    I'm excited to learn more about the bitless bridle you mentioned. I'm looking into using one, at least for trail riding, so I like to see what's available.

    And, this is completely unrelated, but I just noticed that Lily is wearing bells in the picture on the top right of your blog. Wherever did you get them? I'd like to get some for Nimo, but I haven't seen any like that and I'm having serious envy:)

    1. I thought about you while we were there, and could totally understand why anyone would become overwhelmed! I was glad we'd planned out our lecture schedule beforehand and that Phoebe and Kathy knew their way around; I would have been so lost otherwise!

      The bitless bridle can be purchased here: http://www.advantagehorsemanship.com/store/index.php/training-equipment/bitless-halter.html
      They are a nice stiff rope, which is part of what helps them stay in place on the horse's face. Instead of criss-crossing under the horse's jaw like the Dr. Cook Bitless, it has a strap under the chin that both tightens and puts pressure on the nose when pressure is applied, working more like a light hackamore. I liked the concept. The rope across the chin is thicker and softer, so it slides easily, allowing for immediate release of pressure when you release the contact.

      The bells are called rhythm beads. They are actually owned by Phoebe; she let me borrow them for the photo shoot. They are lovely, and were originally made for Paso Finos to show off the beat of their gait with the bells. (I had actually never heard of these beads before until Phoebe told me about them!) They are advertised for trail riders too. Your comment finally reminded me to e-mail Phoebe to get the info; I'll e-mail it to you when I get it. The closest I've found to the one I borrowed are these:

  5. Yoo-hoo.... I think you'd better take a look at this Facebook Page:

    You are about to see your blog traffic hit the stratosphere because Julie has a LOT of fans!!!! You and Lily are now officially famous! :)

    1. WOW!!!! Just...WOW!!! This explains the 500 views today...haha...OMG! THANK YOU for sharing my blog with Julie! I'm glad she obviously liked it!

    2. You are most welcome - they were delighted with what you wrote. :) Julie said honest feedback is very interesting and helpful. I'm tickled for you that they shared it on FB!

    3. I'm ridiculously excited and honored beyond words! Thank you, again!!!

  6. I have gone to the Expo for the past 3 years and I always learn so much and buy great things and have so much fun!! it's a great place to go!! It's got a wide variety of disciplines!!

    1. I loved being able to have access to so many trainers from different disciplines! It was a terrific experience. And OMG the sales! I'd love to actually participate as a rider next year!