When I started working with Marley, he was extremely out of shape and in need of a major tuneup. We focused a lot on groundwork paired with light flatwork for the first month or two, and even though we’re riding more now I still believe there is a place for groundwork and time on the longe.

I did not longe my horses much growing up – perhaps I should have, because one in particular was a rocket ship! – so there has been a learning curve for me. I definitely have moments where keeping track of the whip, 35 feet of longe line, and a 1200-lb horse is more than I can handle gracefully. Happily, Marley is well schooled and knows his voice commands, even if he occasionally chooses to ignore “canter”. I keep sessions on the longe short and try to focus on one specific thing – usually transitions. We’ve also been tightening up the Vienna reins a bit to work on his bend and give him a chance to build strength, particularly at the canter. As a bonus this gives me a change to see how he’s moving and using his body.

Time permitting, I’d like to focus on groundwork maybe once or twice per week. At the moment, we’re definitely closer to once per week given my work schedule and limited daylight!


Marley and I have settled into a good off-season routine of one lesson plus a number of training rides and groundwork sessions per week.

He seems to be settling into life at the new barn well, and his training has been great. We had something of a breakthrough a few weeks ago when my trainer pointed out that a slight shift in my hip position might help Marley balance better. He was 100% correct, and that tiny tweak – though I still feel as though I’m struggling to maintain a correct seat – has made a world of difference in Marley’s balance and self-carriage.

Marley Does Twin Rivers

After a summer spent focusing on strength and conditioning, Marley and I moved to a new barn and shifted into slightly more serious training.

We’ve been lucky to find a wonderful trainer who has helped us to make great progress, and we decided the Twin Rivers One Day would be a good outing for the big red pony.

All photos courtesy Michelle Cale