I had the opportunity last weekend to participate in a clinic at our farm with Bettina Drummond, a classical dressage rider and trainer who follows the French method of training, the primary goal of which is to obtain ultimate lightness, balance and harmony between horse and rider. She studied under Nuno Oliveira for 17 years, and is considered internationally as an expert on in-hand work. Through some miracle of workings, she is based very close to our farm, and is there quite often during the week, bringing horses to us on and off for work in the indoor during the winter (and the occasional sale horse she wants my boss to jump during the summer!). Since the entire time I've been at the farm, Gogo has not been able to participate in a lesson with her (which I so desperately wanted to do), but she had been at the farm quite a lot recently working with Coco, one of my boss' horses who came to us with serious mystery tightness and lameness. The work in hand she has done with him in just a few weeks has had a totally transforming effect on him, so when Gogo got the go-ahead from Dr. C to gently proceed into full work again, I jumped at the chance to do an in-hand session too.
I'll be honest - when I first met Bettina, she scared me to death. Around here, Bettina's word is law. Those of you in the area will all agree with me when I say she has more knowledge and understanding of the horse in her pinky finger than probably all of us reading this right now combined, and that knowledge is palpable when she walks into a room. She commands respect, and she reads people like she reads horses. I felt like a child when I first met her and I was starting my big new scary job - she could see right through me! And she wasn't about to take anybody's crap either. She has a way with stallions like I've never seen, and let me tell you her studs don't even put an ear towards a squatting, peeing mare when she is working with them. Over time, I seem to have somehow earned her respect and friendship, even though I still don't understand quite how it happened. I guess with all her intuition she can see that I'm still just a kid learning the ropes of life, genuine in my efforts to do the very best job that I can, and I think that's a respectable thing.
The work we've been doing with Coco over the past few weeks started with a bopper. That's right, a crop with a round plastic-covered foam ball on the end of it, about the size of a ping-poing ball. A bopper! We bopped him all over his body, tapping all his major groups of muscles with the rhythm of a metronome, searching for weaknesses. The point of this, Bettina explained to me, was that horses with serious physical or mental damage (and people, for that matter) stop linking their right and left brains when severely traumatized. Even just by tapping the forehead on either side back and forth, the neurons will start to correctly fire back and forth, cross-linking back to their original function. Apparently dissections have also been done with horses who have had serious hind-end or back trauma, and you can inject joints, rest them, or do whatever else you want, but those horses will go lame again if they go back to work because their muscles atrophy and fail - they're not getting the proper signals from the brain. This method is similar to Endo-tapping I believe, but I don't think they're quite the same thing. When bopping Coco, we discovered how seriously fidgety he was on certain spots of his body, and that when he'd relax, one ear would start swinging in time to the bopping, the ear on the same side of the body. Over time, he stopped being so reactive to those spots as he started to reconnect and heal, and both ears would start swinging together - both sides were firing together again. Bop your mare, Bettina told me. See what you find.
Bop, bop, bop. Gogo's immediate reaction in her stall without a halter was to look at me curiously, then literally swing her butt at me when I bopped her in front of her withers, which was simultaneously not surprising but also not acceptable and not something she's ever really done before (save for one outstanding time). On went the halter, on went the bopping. She showed definite sensitivity where her neck connects to her withers on both sides, which is exactly where she holds all her tension. The second time I bopped her, she was much better about that area, but she showed more sensitivity over her back. Interesting! I plan on continuing to bop her in more of the Endo-tapping way, to encourage relaxation. You never know what it might continue to show, and it might be a first warning method for something brewing.
For the clinic, no bopping was done. Instead, we outfitted Gogo in her bridle, polos and bells, and did a series of small bits of lateral work. Bettina was quick to point out the fact that her right shoulder (specifically how she moves her elbow) is a point of weakness, and she would rather back away from whip tapping than move the elbow sideways. Using the whip and one hand on the reins right below the bit, I moved Gogo down the rail laterally in both directions, trying to achieve an even crossover and a quiet lateral response to the whip.
We also played around a little bit with holding both reins, one in each hand, and doing shoulder-in and haunches-in down the rail, switching back around to bend the horse left and right while going forward. It was impossibly hard to understand and extremely difficult to handle two reins and a whip and a slightly confused mare while walking backwards, but every time we were both confused, Bettina had me stretch her and walk her forward to diffuse the potential brewing bomb.
It was hard! I know I will need lots of practice at it. But the entire point of it is to achieve balance on both sides of her body while simultaneously strengthening her hind end while ALSO simultaneously working her kinks out for future under saddle work, so it's worth it to learn and understand. Amazingly, after our session, Bettina offered it to me for nothing, thanking me for all I had done for her. I couldn't believe it! The clients all spent the day remarking on how beautiful the facility looked, all our guests raved about what a nice establishment I had running, my boss thanked me for all my hard work, and Bettina's gracious offer on top of all of that was the icing on the cake. It was such a good day!
And of course, since it was high time for it, even though it was a cloudy day we took the opportunity to get our Seasonal Conformation Shots since she was so clean. She looks GREAT!
I like how she is standing like a total goof in the last shot. Compare to June. Even her expression is better. She doesn't look as amazingly sexy as she did last October, when she was still racing fit, but you know. She'll get there, someday!
Gogo is a 10-year-old dark bay Holsteiner mare who I purchased as a 5-year-old in PA in July of 2006. She came from a fantastic woman with a trainer I instantly disliked, and was just barely started, headstrong, and certainly promising. Her steering was not all there, and the trainer had her head cranked to her chest the entire ride. She also was shod in front with shoes and pads; after having repeated bad farrier jobs cripple my last horse, I was ready to give performance barefooting a try. She tossed both her shoes within a week of me owning her, and that was the last time she ever wore them. More setbacks in her training occured when I left her in the care of a trainer I trusted while I was studying abroad in New Zealand from January to June of 2007 - I came home to find her starved, beaten, and with a rearing problem. Lots and lots of time and hard work, and she's come a long way....
This blog follows her training, her travels, and also her feet! People say horses can't possibly successfully jump or event barefoot at the upper levels... I'm here to prove them wrong.
Proving her heart of gold and guts of steel at the 2009 American Eventing Championships
Show Name: Gogo Fatale
Barn Name: Gogo
Registered Name (AHHA): Revelea
Sire: Lemgo (Landgraf I x Elvira II)
Dam: Fandango (Fasolt x Shenango Lisa)
Color: Dark Bay
Markings: Tiny partial white coronets on both fronts, left hind white pastern, few white hairs on forehead, tiny white snip, tiny white moustache
Height: 16.1 1/2
DOB: June 2nd, 2001
Disciplines: Eventing, Dressage, Jumpers (and occasional contesting, trail, driving, and swimming!)
There was an error in this gadget
Click above to visit MotorQueue Natural Hoof Care!
Sunday Success Stories
Sunday Success Stories are a weekly feature here at Eventing-A-Gogo. Every Sunday we highlight a reader's own personal journey through overcoming adversity with their horses, sometimes against all odds. These stories are about those who never gave up, and who made a difference in the life of an animal who just needed a little love and care in order to turn around. Send your success stories, past or present, to
For as long as I can remember, my life has revolved around horses. I've been riding since the age of 7, and doing dressage and eventing since the age of 15. My first gelding was a little black Trakehner named Quincy who had had EPM at some point; he was the best friend an emotional teenager could have ever wanted. He died of a horrible colic in 2004. My second gelding was a dark bay clunker of a Trakehner named Metro; he was the best schoolmaster and friend I ever could have asked for, and he trucked my butt around my first real x-country courses, and brought me my first really fancy ribbons. Due to a whole slew of problems, we euthanized him in 2006. My third horse was the quirky and opinionated Gogo, my first youngster and my first mare. She taught me endless amounts of patience, the importance of praise and soft hands, how to graciously accept mass amounts of blue ribbons one moment and how to graciously accept a dose of humble butt-whooped pie the next. After a long and downhill rehab for compounded leg injuries, we let her go in October of 2011. What's next for me? Follow along and find out!
What kind of footware does your event horse sport?
69.7%, Reserve Champion first time at First Level!
March 14, 2009: Mount Holyoke Saturday Sizzler Jumper Show, Division IV Jumpers (2'9"-3'); Two 4ths
April 5, 2009: Mount Holyoke Sunday Sizzler Jumper Show, Division V Jumpers (3'3"-3'6"); Two 3rds
May 10, 2009: King Oak Farms H.T. (Novice); 1st place, 31.1 (Double clear stadium & XC!)
May 30, 2009: Mystic Valley Hunt Club H.T. (Novice); 1st place, 30.0 (Double clear stadium & XC!)
June 26-28, 2009: Groton House Farm H.T. (Novice); 1st place, 31.5 (Double clear stadium & XC!)
July 12, 2009: ENYDCTA/Old Chatham H.T. (Novice CH); RF (34.1, tied for 4th after dressage, dumped on XC!)
July 19, 2009: Riga Meadow H.T. (Novice); 8th (1st after dressage & stadium with a 34, one runout XC)
August 23, 2009: Huntington Farm H.T. (Novice); 5th place, 33.5 (3rd after dressage with a 29.5, 2nd after perfect XC, one rail stadium)
September 11-13, 2009: American Eventing Championships (Novice Horse CH); 30.5 after dressage (in 7th), double clear XC (moved to 6th), W after tendon injuries sustained on XC (would have finished 4th out of 40 with a clean stadium round)
February 2nd, 2008: Chagrin Valley Farms Schooling H/J Show, Novice Jumpers; Two 5ths
February 17, 2008: Lake Erie College H/J Winter Series, Novice Jumpers; 5th
March 14-16, 2008: Lake Erie College Dressage Winter Series, Training/First Level; T3 65.2% (2nd), T4 66% (1st!), F1 69.66% (1st!), F2 63.8% (2nd), First Level Reserve Champion!
March 29-30, 2008: Lake Erie College H/J Winter Series, Adult Amateur Hunters, Novice Jumpers; Hunters 4th, 6th, 6th; Jumpers 5th, 7th
April 18-20, 2008: Lake Erie College Dressage Prix de Villes, First Level; F1 60% (2nd), F2 53.3%, F3 57% (6th), Team "LEC's That's What She Said" 3rd place team! (Scary show where she was in freakish heat, which was obv. in our scores....)
June 7, 2008: South Farm Combined Test, Novice; 1st, 26.0 (Double Clear)!
June 21-22, 2008: Encore H.T., Beginner Novice; 3rd, 42.5 (1st after dressage 38.5, one rail stadium)
July 4-6, 2008: South Farm H.T., Beginner Novice Horse; 1st, 26.6 (1st after dressage 22.6, one rail stadium)!
August 8-10, 2008: Hunters Run H.T., Beginner Novice Horse; 1st, 33.0 (Double Clear)!
August 16h, 2008: Erie Hunt & Saddle Club H.T., Beginner Novice; 2nd, 32.5 (Double Clear)
August 24, 2008: Ellrick Farms Schooling H/J Show, Training Jumper (3'); Two 4ths, one 5th
August 30-31, 2008: South Farm Fall H.T., Area 8 BN Championships; W (1st after dressage, 28.5)
September 10-14, 2008: American Eventing Championships, Beginner Novice Horse; 6th, 33.0 (Double Clear)!
July 7-8, 2007: South Farm H.T., Beginner Novice Horse; 6th, 39.0 (Double Clear)
July 20-22, 2007: Dressage at Waterloo, Training Level 1-4; T1 63% (5th), T2 62% (5th), T3 (3rd), T4 63.2 (5th), 60% (6th)
August 11-12, 2007: Dressage at Grand Haven, Training Level 1-4; T1 60.9% (5th), T2 69% (1st!), T3 61.6% (4th), T4 62.8% (5th), 60.4%
September 16th, 2007: South Farm Mini Trial, Beginner Novice Horse; 1st, 31.5 (Double Clear)!
September 30, 2007: Spinning Wheel Fun Show, All Gymkhana; Seven 1sts, two 2nds, one 3rd
October 7th, 2007: South Farm Fall Hunter Pace, Flat Division; 10th
November 9-11, 2007: Lake Erie College Dressage Winter Series, Training 1-4; T1 65% (2nd), T2 69.3% (1st)!, T3 66% (2nd), T4 64% (3rd)
Sept 17, 2006: South Farm Mini Trial, Intro Horse; 3rd, 39.0 (Double Clear)
October 7th, 2006: Mane Event Fun Show, Barrels, Stakes, Fanny Race!; 5th, 6th, 6th