That Dreaded C Word – Canter

It’s no secret I’m lover of all things Standardbreds. I’ve been fortunate to have grown up surrounded by them. From breeding, training, racing then into their career after racing. Oh and I guess plenty of experience looking after the retired ones too!

The last 12 months or so after completing my EA Coaching, I’ve been helping my fellow Standardbred riders get the best out of their horses.

I come across horses at all different stages of their training, green horses to horses that have plenty of miles under their belts.

One thing I do come across is that dreaded C word.


I wanted to tell you one thing. It’s not impossible.

There is nothing holding you back. Speaking from my own experience, I’ve competed in more open competitions then I ever have within the Standardbred ring. It can be done.


But how?

Great question..


As much as we would like, there is no magic wand, no instant quick fix and certainly no tricks.


So, what is it?


Building blocks in our foundations, tackling and linking our blocks along the way.


We want to be an expert at the basics, our transitions not only in and out but within the gait. Keeping your horse balanced underneath you, not running away through the bridle. Having a genuine connection from the hind legs through your seat and into your hands from the bridle, working over their top line.


You can read a hundred different ways to get your Standardbred cantering, they’re all true someone has tried and tested it.

Don’t forget there are many ways not to get your Standardbred cantering, because we’ve tried it and it hasn’t worked!


My piece of advice to you (besides a few of those hundreds of exercises) is to ask yourself this. How good are your basics, are your building blocks helping you climb your way to success?


You want to be able to have that adjustable trot, being able to make it bigger and smaller.


When we first begin to ask for canter we only want to see a handful of strides, even if they are a four beat. Trust me, they will get more balanced and three beat over time.


9 times out of 10 they want to drop out of canter and run into trot, organise your trot again and reward. Use your voice, give them a pat! Don’t keep driving them in the canter to keep cantering or to find their balance.


Once you have your rhythm back in your trot work, ask again. Little bits at a time. You’ll soon be able to ride the canter like you ride the trot.


Of course, this all sounds simple in theory! But if it is something you’re struggling with or about to embark. Ask yourself, how good are your basic building blocks.

Open Competitions with Standardbreds

There is no reason why you can’t take your Standardbred into an open competition. There is nothing holding you back from pushing yourself and hitting those goals.

For those who have aspirations of competing in an open competition but feel like they’re never going to be able to. Re read the first paragraph again, and probably another 3 times.

Let it sink in.

It all comes down to your training and having a knowledgeable coach who will help you achieve this goal and your willingness to learn and motivation to make it routine.

You need to think about where you’re at with your training right now. How many miles has your horse have being under saddle, 6 weeks, 6 months or even 2 years? Note where you’re at and where you want to be down the track. If your horse has not long been under saddle, that’s great, put your goals down and work towards them.

There is nothing holding you back. Speaking from my own experience, I’ve competed in more open competitions then I ever have within the Standardbred ring. It can be done.

The ridden Standardbred classes have gone leaps and bounds over the last few years, it’s lovely to see the amount of horses out competing. The overall presentation of the horses is certainly something to be proud of. Honestly, it’s a huge credit to you for presenting them so beautifully.

It’s lovely to see the determination and also the enjoyment from these riders who are competing in the ridden events. Don’t let your goals stop in the breed ring.

There are some amazing riders out there who are completely kicking goals in open competition, have you seen some of the amazing Standardbreds sand dancing recently? It’s not only great to see but a pleasure to see good training pay off and for the breed to really be seriously competitive with other breeds in the 60×20.

If you’ve been following me for a while you know my view on competing Standardbreds in open competition is there is no chance, you’re not good enough or you will be out of place because you ride a Standardbred. It honestly comes down to good consistent training.

Lesson Diagonal Pair


If I’m speaking honestly, I felt prouder and successful about my own training when I was competing Arnie in open events. The fact he was just as competitive with all the other horses on the draw and no one looked at him as just a ‘Standardbred’ but a dressage horse.

A few little wise things from me to you.

  • A knowledgeable coach to help you work towards your goals.
  • Good training system
  • More importantly be consistent with your training system- stick at it.
  • Good things take time
  • Don’t stop learning

Reflecting on progression

It’s when you have all the time in the world you start scrolling through old photos and comparing, sitting and wishing competitions were back in action again. I found two pictures of Arnie while I was enjoying looking back at some memories.

I really want to share two pictures that stuck out to me. The first picture was from around February 2018 at Sydney Dressage. I was so, so proud of the way we were going at the time (to be honest I’m always proud!). It’s not until you put a picture side by side with another picture and start to realise a difference, in this instance I like to call this progression.

Feb 2018

The second picture is from what I say was our best competition ever, September 2018. We had decent scores and he just felt amazing. To this date hands down best competition with Arnie. I think we placed 5thwith a pretty competitive score to really boot!

Sept 2018

When I think about it, there isn’t much time between these two pictures really, about 8 months give or take. I mean, considering I couldn’t ride for 72 days in that 8 months (yes, you’ve probably guessed it- pretty sure I was counting the minutes also). I would say it is quite the improvement.

If you’re thinking this is going to be some quick fix, short cut way to progress. Some amazing supplement I bought and made the difference… Then you need to guess again. I’m not about quick fixes or short cuts or in fact anyway to race forward to the end to cut out the middle part. As the last few years have taught me, I’m all about the hours learning not only in the saddle but also out of the saddle.

Now I know I’m far from perfect, I could have this post listing all the imperfections between the two pictures, what I want this post to really be about is the transformation and progression in our training. The change between horse and rider as a combination. The knowledge I had rolling around in my head February 2018 is far less than the knowledge floating around in September 2018.

Our progression

To be honest this was 2 years ago, I can’t remember the exact path I took, call it the coffee craze or the wine haze. But what I know is that I just kept plugging along doing what I was doing, always trying to do better. Trying to have a better posture while riding, trying to improve Arnie’s paces, making sure he was picking up his diagonal pairs with the centre of gravity underneath him. Getting him to use his body more, keep up the regular body work treatments and best of all – asking questions to help improve us both.

Knowledge is a powerful tool and so is motivation. I like to think these two-work hand in hand to support our training. It’s taken me a long time to get where I am now and to be honest, I’m far from where I want to be. At times we need to take a look back at how far we have come, be it 8 months or 2 years. Sometimes we need to take this step back to reflect to realise we are on the right track. I guess that little stint on the sideline did me some wonders to advance my learning skills.

When was the last time you reflected back on your training?

Let’s chat about pacing- part 2

If you’ve had the chance to read part 1 of Let’s Chat About Pacing (click here to read), I brushed over a few little concepts about ‘thinking’. The main reason I split the two into think person number one- and thinking-person number two is that, you don’t need to stress about if your Standardbred isn’t ‘perfect’ during training. Gosh, it’s called training for a reason at times it might look ugly so it can develop into something beautiful!

To recap about balance, it is about balancing the whole horse. As the training progresses, they will be able to accept more weight onto their hind legs. We want to start aligning and connecting through the body. As I mentioned in part 1, turning with the outside shoulder and activate the inside hind leg.

Now, let’s have a chat about the ‘doing’ side of this! I’ve mentioned this multiple times over the years, but out of all the horses (by that I mean Standardbreds- of course) I could have picked on the property for my ridden horse, I picked the one who naturally paces the most. He paces all the time, no there isn’t anything wrong with him. It’s natural and he obviously feels more comfortable pacing more times than some of the others. If anyone has experience with a Standardbred who loves to pace under saddle, that would be me!




You’re probably thinking these topics in this series are a bit boring, where is the short cut and the quick fix. Well, it’s about the hours in and out of the saddle making mistakes and finding ways to do things better. Transitions isn’t just all about walk to trot and trot to canter, it is also about the different gears within the pace.

At the start when I was riding Arnie it was hard! Getting him to wait and to listen, come back and be a little ‘quicker’ underneath me. He really wanted to drop out underneath me into a pace because it was a lot easier. (It’s the best feeling at the trot to really feel working over the back connected through the body and that swing and push!)

Have your horse in front of your leg (not running away, but the feeling of them underneath you if you say go it will go), use your body/position and your half halts to bring them back into a ‘smaller’ trot or canter, you want the feeling that they are still ‘pushing’ still active underneath you. Pushing with the hind legs not pulling with the fronts! A little ‘quicker’, which is about how long their feet are on the ground for.

You want to try and find the sweet spot where they will just hang in before they want to drop out and stop pushing. You’ll know when you find it! When you’re in it, they should be waiting for you to come back out of it into a more working pace again. Don’t hang to long, it is hard for them to find this area to keep pushing and wait.  Chip away at it each ride, if you ask for a little more some days and a little fewer other days. It will start to build them up.

I could write an essay on cantering with your Standardbred, training is like an onion, you just keep peeling back the layers (sometimes yes, we have tears!) As we are having a little chat about pacing under saddle with balance and transitions, I have found that when you are starting out cantering your Standardbred (I’ll have other post down the track with this in focus or please just contact me for any questions, more than happy to help). It’s all about the preparation before the canter and the preparation coming back to trot. If you find they can only canter a few strides that’s completely fine. I honestly don’t know how long it took Arnie to develop and progress to be able to canter down the whole long side of the arena completely balanced and in a 3 beat canter.

Set yourself up for the transition into canter with a positive trot, canter half 20m circle or until they don’t feel like are going to fall out of canter. Prepare make a transition to trot, keep it balanced, don’t let it run on the forehand. It is far better to get snippets of a good quality canter with preparation into and out of then to keep cantering around and being unbalanced.

Start small, keep the bend through the body, they will less likely want to pop into a pace on a circle then down the long side.

Stay tuned for Part 3 – at this point I feel like there are going to be many parts to this series because it is such a large topic and I really want to break them down!


Let’s chat about pacing – part 1

I like to think there are two different types of thinking when it comes to pacing. Don’t worry, I’ve been both of them at some point during my time.

The first thinking, who gets a little ‘frustrated’ when their horse slides in the odd pace. Their heart sinks a little, questioning why on earth do they ‘have’ to throw in that few strides of pacing. They shorten them up in front to try to help to maintain the trot or in transitions.

Thinking number two, is when their horse puts in a few strides of pace they really think about how the horse is using their body. Thinking why the horse is putting in a few strides of pace during a certain exercise. How can make them use their body from the hind end and influence them in a way to build their strength and balance to help the horse.

Which thinking do you fall into? I used to be number one, but now I can happily say I’m number 2! But as we know it’s not always as easy as it seems is it? It’s so easy to fall into the trap of think it has to be great and it has to be great now. Without breaking down the process.

I really, really want to put a little something together for you, think of it as a reference guide, just a little something to think about while you are at home training. I don’t want to get into the nitty gritty details about the gait pacing itself in this post. You can read about my views on pacing on my previous blog posts – Standardbred Myths Part 1 here and Standardbred Myths Part 2 here.

If there is one thing I want to repeat again and again is, it’s natural. It’s in their DNA if you like it or not, it is our job to teach them how to use their bodies in a different way, so they learn the 3 main gaits.

I have a few general rules when it comes to pacing under saddle. You might have heard this word a little or a lot, you might think it important or you might not understand the importance as of yet.


Balance – is one of those things that typically we are aiming to achieve from a green horse all the way through to Grand Prix. The degree changes as the horse progresses through the levels, but it is something we need to think about and implement from the get-go.

Why do we need to think about balance for our Standardbred? Great question. Because when you look at the mechanics of the Standardbred, you’ll see they are built different to other ridden horses. And that’s ok, because their sole intention isn’t to be a ridden horse. They were literally born to pull a cart.

Let’s just re read a part of that last sentence. Born to pull a cart. Like any horse starting out under saddle we want to encourage to work from behind and over the back. Naturally our lovely Standardbreds with the tendency to be ‘on the forehand’, when we begin to start asking them to move and bend through their bodies, they find it a bit hard and revert to what they find natural, pulling power. For me, I relate this to a ‘cart’ horse make up of them and never really needing the bend and for them to move through the body being a racehorse prior.

It’s important for us as riders that not only to show them but teach them how to use their body in a way that we are asking. We should never, never, never relate pacing to anything negative. It is our job to show them when and when not to use it. They are in the paddock and have around 23 hours a day to themselves to do whatever they please. In the 1 hour they are with us it is our job to teach them.

So how do we help improve their balance? Well there are a few aspects, in this post I will discuss lightly the first aspect. I’ll be breaking it down over a series of posts. (so stay tuned)

Not getting stuck riding around the outside track in the arena for starters! Even our 20m circles, let’s have some purpose. You shouldn’t feel like you are just ‘riding around’. I mention a bit about planning your training which you can find here.

To begin the process of transitioning them from being a racehorse to a ridden horse, we want them to learn to start moving and to have control over where they are putting their feet and shoulders. If you’ve had a lesson with me before you might have heard me say this, because I really love this analogy! Imagine you are riding on a train track; their shoulders are the front of the train and the rest of the horse are the carriages and they will follow through.

Let’s have a quick chat about the shoulders. Have a think about how you turn your horse. It’s good practise from the beginning, to start to connect the horse with your outside rein and to be able to turn with the outside shoulder. This will be so, super, super helpful when you progress through your training. When you begin to develop turning with the outside rein aid (outside shoulder) this will help improve the connection with their inside hind leg. Because of their previous life as a ‘cart’ horse there was never the true need to take weight on their inside hind leg as their fellow ridden friends.

The only way you will improve is to keep pushing on through your training. Use the space you have and move them around, have the change of bend through their bodies. If in doubt walk through the exercise first and then do it again in trot. By having a handle over moving the shoulders around, you will have less of a chance of them pacing.

From here, we need to as riders, think about the diagonal pair. If you haven’t had the chance to check out my lesson with Brett last year about the diagonal pair, you can check it out here.

Stay tuned for part 2 of this series, I’ll go into depth about a few handy exercises that I have found super helpful with Arnie and chat away about other areas of pacing under saddle including the diagonal pair. Out of all the horses on the property I could have chosen to ride, Arnie was the one who loves to pace the most naturally!

Online Coaching

We are all entering a world of uncertainty. I feel like as equestrians we have a little bit of ‘thick skin’ entering into this human virus crisis. After all, EI didn’t knock us down!

As an accredited EA coaches need to adapt into this ‘new age’ of uncertainty. I most and foremost would like to continue growing and encouraging the current Standardbred community during this time of uncertainty with their training. After all, there is always light at the end of the tunnel (sometimes closer than others pending on how you look at it!)

At the moment I’m limiting my travelling coaching due to the virus situation. This has opened up new doors for me and others within the community. Especially to those that have enquired about my coaching that are interstate or out of my area.

I would love to extend my coaching services to online training to help everyone. At present, I would like to encourage the community to stick together with my offer to video reviews.

Within these video reviews I encourage riders to send me through a video of what they are currently working on with their horse/horses for me to review. I will send back the video with my voice over and also with a written edit of my review including exercises to work on. This package will also include for riders to send through a second video progressing from the original video. Videos are recommended to be about 5-8 minutes (only due to file size!)

Full details can be found by clicking here, package will be $59.95 (2 videos, reviews and exercises). You will need to add this to your cart, read through the downloadable form and follow the instructions. (please select no shipping on checkout)

Let’s see the light within this unfortunate time, let’s get together within the community and focus on our horses and be ready on the other side of this situation!

I’m looking forward to helping all the Standardbred riders (and non-Standardbred!) out there.

Any questions please contact me, all questions welcome! To read about my coaching you can visit my coaching page by clicking here.

Happy Training,


Meet the horses: Kiwi Jak

You’ve might have seen a fair few posts recently about this dark handsome kiwi horse. Don’t worry, I haven’t replaced Arnie!

In fact, this tall dark handsome man is Kiwi Jak! I thought it was time to do a little ‘informal’ introduction J

Of course, if you would like to watch the vlog you can by clicking here

As the name suggests he is in fact a kiwi. He is a 7 year old Standardbred gelding that we purchased from the yearling sales in New Zealand. He spent a little bit of time over in New Zealand being broken in, trialled and qualified before making the move over to the sunny shores of Australia.

Jak didn’t settle all that well when he first arrived over from New Zealand, he didn’t acclimatise at all. In fact, I’m fairly certain it was about 40 degrees when he landed in Sydney! When we finally got going, he had his first race start. You see, if you have been following and reading for a while you will know that I used to do a bit of driving on our family bred horses. It honestly looked like I came out of ‘retirement’ just to have my one race drive on Kiwi Jak. We run a super second!

I was super proud of him running second in our first start together, but that balloon was soon deflated. Having an injury to his annular ligament required him to have extensive time on the sideline. It felt like time was passing ever so slowly on his road to full health again. I’m pleased to say it wasn’t completely impossible.

Once he was nursed back to soundness, we were back into training as if we hadn’t missed a beat. As it turns out, the racing gods weren’t on our side at all this time round! With two separate incidents, travelling back from the trials one evening with a huge storm. It was quite the experience, I was ready to grab the change of pants just from sitting the car, let alone Jak who was in the float. We had to pull over off the freeway into the nearest service station just to take cover. I remember checking in on Jak in the float and he looked at worried as I was.

Close to this experience for this boy, we had another summer storm. This time it was in the early hours of the morning where his stable (which also has a walk in, walk out yard) took a direct hit with lightening. There were sparks flying off his roof and poor Jak was worried as anything! After these two events, we still attempted to kick on with his training. But unfortunately, poor Jak, the few times we transported him in the float to the track he just over sweated on the trip to the track and it honestly was like he went out on the track to cool down. Needless to say, we decided to give Kiwi Jak a break!

He isn’t just a track pony, he has been to 3 shows so far. For 2 Champions and a Reserve Champion. I’ve been working him lately as if he has commenced the transformation to the ‘riding team’! So far he has taken to a duck on water. So proud of him, such a laid-back temperament. He will truly make a lovely ridden horse down the track.

I’m really excited to see what path Kiwk Jak takes this year, if it be a return to racing or to commence a saddle career! Either way, I hope you enjoyed a little insight to learning about Kiwi Jak. Please make sure you do check out the vlog 🙂

Measuring Success with a Standardbred

I’m sure there is a point in your life when you have come across your first Standardbred, it will be a point in your life that you remember. For me, I’ve been fortunate to have grown up with them in my life since I can honestly remember. With my family having involvement with the breed before I even knew what horse breeds are.

the training plan

People sometimes ask me; how do you measure your success with your Standardbred against other horses in the open competition. I have to stop and think, why do I need to measure my success any differently to other riders.


People sometimes ask me; how do you measure your success with your Standardbred against other horses in the open competition


My answer usually is something along the lines of, well I’ve been fortunate to have grown up with the breed since a young age, so I literally see them as any other horse. I love every aspect of the breed, they have been amazing to work with from breeding, training, racing, retiring and recently retraining as a saddle horse. As we know the Standardbred have a lovely trainable nature to them.


Now, that’s just my honest opinion.


But I do think about people who have found the love of the breed later in their equestrian journey. What influence this must bring to them. I know my strength is to put the blinkers on and ignore any ‘negativity’. I can’t help but wonder what influence the wider equestrian community has on people who have found the breed differently to me.


Collectively as equestrians, no matter what discipline you choose. We all put the same amount of time and effort into the sport. We all have a different level of expectations, but when it comes to the competition aspect what we want is to truly achieve the best possible mark.


I’m not entirely sure how my mindset works at times, but what I know and feel confident with is, that there is no need to see myself as someone ‘different’ because of my horse. When I see my name in the result sheet, I don’t think wow I placed mid field, that’s great considering I have a Standardbred. I’m thinking, great ride, but how can I make it better and be further up that list.


Through-out my riding and competition life with my number one Standardbred Arnie, I’ve never felt as if I’ve been let down because of his breed. I’ve never really felt the need to judge my opinion of success because of his breed. If anything, it just makes me more determined to try new things and advance our training!


I receive many messages from other Standardbred riders who do feel they need to adjust their mindset and lower their expectations of success because of the breed of horse they ride.


My advice. Don’t. You have a willing trainable horse, just transitioning from one career to another. I don’t think many other dressage or show horses out there also can pull a cart 😉

The not so perfectly planned year

When I was writing down my goals for this year I was super excited to picture my goal kicking year ahead. I was focused on three areas of my life; training and competition, personal development and professional development.

Recently rereading my post “goals for the coming year” my heart sank a little, because I feel I haven’t achieved not one small part of my goals that I had set out to do. Unfortunately, its life, things come up. I broke my collarbone in May and was out of the saddle for a while, which led me to have a knock-on effect to be a little unmotivated with my personal and professional development goals. Once you feel down and out it takes a while to gain that momentum for the uphill climb.

Once you feel down and out it takes a while to gain that momentum for the uphill climb.

But you know what, after enjoying a glass of wine (or two, or three. But, hey who’s counting ?) I had a thought to myself. The year is not over, I still have time to tick a few of my goals off my list and start to shape my 2019 from here.

The not so perfectly planned year

Coming back into the competition arena after 7 months. Better yet, 209 days ago or 60% of my 2018. (wow sounds a little depressing!) makes me feel a little nervous on the inside. Especially since we have only been back training since July, 66 days or 18.08% of my 2018!

The not so perfectly planned year

I have re adjusted my goals that I enthusiastically wrote down at the start of the year.  Still focusing on my three areas of my life. I might not be writing these down as enthusiastically as I once did at the start of the year, but I know I am not the only one out there who has fallen off the wagon. I can only start to shape my amazing 2019 from here.

Training and Competition
  • Pluck away at our counter canter and canter loops (in the novice 2.3)
  • Play around and get confident with some lateral movements
  • Sharpen our simple changes
  • Attend 3 competitions before the end of 2018. With good confident prelim and novice scores.


Personal Development

I’ve commenced the EA NCAS Coaching Course so long ago and have only completed the theory side of the first set of modules! I feel like I have a massive anchor holding me down, a weight on my mind that makes me feel as if I cannot progress. I need to shake this feeling, especially if I want to do what I love! In saying that I am aiming to complete one more section of my course before the end of the year. In hope one tick off the box on the course will lead onto another.

As for the exercise goals I had written down. Well, I haven’t progressed all that far with that! I might leave that as ‘ongoing’. Says the person who puts strawberries in her dessert to justify it to be ‘healthy’ ?

Professional Development

I honestly feel this is the side of my life I am starting to have under control. I absolutely love Dressage Dreamers. It’s hard to believe how an idea sitting down on my laptop watching tv has led me to how it is today. It’s my project, it will change and shape into something different over the coming years.

The Standardbred Showcase has been working super, I absolutely love reading everyone’s stories and sharing them! You can check out the stories here.

I’m sure I am not the only one who has had an unplanned year, would love to hear how you are going towards your goals ? comment or drop me a line!

The not so perfectly planned year