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Friday, December 3, 2010

It's Getting Mighty Cold Out: Don't Lose Touch!

When the weather gets cold like this, it becomes harder and harder for me to go out to the barn and ride. The horses get thick with fuzzies and the cool down time seems to take forever if you get them wet at all. Not to mention if you forget that when you get off that the ground has frozen, and slam your poor cold feet on the dirt only to feel that oh so familiar sting that goes all the way up your spine.

I find that it is times like these when it is important to keep track of what my goals are in my riding and keep inching forward. It's the worst when things not only become dark at 3pm, but stagnant in the ring with your partner. So I would encourage any reader out there to keep a log of what you do and where you would like o be through these winter months and see how far you get through your goals come the spring thaw. Be sure to set some obtainable goals, don't make them all impossible so as to not reach a single one, but then also have others that are going to be difficult, if not impossible for you to reach. In fine fashion... I'll share some of my own personal goals with Fire for these winter months:

- clean flying changes both on the left and right side
- clean and clear transitions, especially from the trot to walk, staying through in the back
- a stronger left side canter that has a more clear jump in it and equals what is happening currently on the right side now
- comfortable mini half passes in both the canter and the trot, on both sides
- at least one, if not two successful trips to another facility (he's only ever been off of his own grounds once!) THIS is a HUGE deal for us
- work the "big" clippers and get comfortable with them

I don't know how all of these goals will turn out, or if any of them will turn out. I do know, however, that I do have them all written down and have them in my tack trunk so I can see them every day before I get my gear together to go ride. This helps me to stay focused and on the ball. It doesn't mean that every day I work flying changes, or the mini half passes, because we don't. But it does mean that because this list stays at the front of my mind we keep on working and my trainer will see a difference when he comes back into town from Frorida, and things won't get stagnant.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Get back on the horse...

minor mishap... more great posts coming soon.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

It Doesn't Always Start Well...

I had a lesson yesterday with Ryan Yap. I usually try to get on early and at least start my warm-up before he gets there, but I wasn't able to. I began the warm-up and was getting frustrated because Fire has started with "thing" where he warms up with his head up in the air like a pig. I can't force him into any sort of frame because then our entire ride is just crap. So I asked Ryan if this "cow frame" was acceptable for warm up, and he said that it was, that it might be a phase and that some horses just warm up like that. So, I accepted it and moved on.

After that bump in the road we went on to have a good ride. I relaxed and so did Fire. We worked on shortening and lengthening his stride to get him to really sit down into his transitions. In the past, Fire has gotten very upset while doing things like this, but took it like a star and didn't act up at all. The exercise was to ride in a circle and ride one 1/2 on a long strided posting trot, and then the other 1/2 was a short strided sitting trot, keeping the same rhythm. Many times Fire came above the bit when shortening his stride, but as long as he did not curl, this was okay and I just kept him in the short stride until he gave in the neck to then let him out in the longer stride. This really helped to engage his hind end in the trot and made him very active.

The canter work was next, where we worked on picking up the canter from the walk. The first transition was generally crap because Fire wasn't necessarily paying attention. I find it helpful to speak to the horse and tell him "canter" before the transition at this point so he is ready for what I want and has an upward and correct transition during this training period. Once we began working that way, they improved greatly and were followed by a lot of praise.

We quickly moved into asking for a counter canter, which admittedly, we were not ready for. If you're not ready for something, then don't do it! We did an extra circle and came back around to try again for the shallow serpentine that we had been asked to execute. At this point we had better balance and it was performed without hesitation and with good jump and balance. So then we moved to a harder counter canter: across the short diagonal and then around the short side and across the short diagonal again back to correct lead again. Since we had been practicing three loop serpentines going from correct lead to counter canter, this was not difficult for Fire to do, and he stayed very well balanced and did not try to run or break. I could tell that Ryan was pleasantly surprised, and moved onto the next move, mini half passes.I do have to admit, that one surprised me! I didn't think that Fire was ready for me to ask him to move in the way a mini half pass would have him move in the canter, but he surprised me and seemed to move very well, and all the way from the wall to the centerline. What a champ he is sometimes!

After the lesson Fire was very tired and earned his vetroline bath and time out eating in the pasture. My butt and stomach are super sore today from all the work my muscles got in yesterday, and I can't wait to see what is is store for us next time. I can really see good marked improvements. And it was nice to hear Ryan say that he was very impressed with our progress since we're alone and I don't have him to help me often. A very nice thing to say I think.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Straight off the Runway, and onto your Horse!

Well... straight from Paris and Dior, the new fad... wear your horse's tendon boots! Who would have thought, right? The Paris fashion show was set with a packed paddock of steeds with girls trotting down the runway in odd things like these, fake breeches and other odd flat boots that resembled polo wraps. And the new "it" accessory isn't a chic bag, no no... it's your riding crop!

What is this world coming to? Soon we'll be able to just turn to our tack trunks for everything!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

There Must Be Something In The Air

Hell, I know that it has cooled off since earlier this week, but MAN did the horses all have something up their big round asses today!

I first got the the barn and let a few of the girls outside to get some exercise, and Meme tried to run me over. Alright, granted she hadn't been out yet and it was brisk and they were taking down (ie: the corn was being farmed) the field right next to the farm, so it was sort of expected and not the end of the world. I then got on Fire and decided that I'd like to go ride him out in the field that he usually gets turned out in and not ride in the ring. Though I've never done this before, I didn't think anything of it because it's the same place he's been turned out since he was a little boy. No big deal right? BAWHAHA! He threw a complete temper tantrum. Upon reading his behavior, which included sucking back in the bridle, pawing at the ground, chomping the bit and flicking his skin, I knew he was not confident and he was actually scared. Fire doesn't like to be alone, and though I was on him, I felt like he was feeling alone during this whole thing. I tried to console him and sit heavy to show him that I was confident (but light enough so if he did take off or shoot into the air like a rocket I wasn't going to fall to the ground like an idiot rock).

I didn't fall off, nor did I get off. I sat confident and patted him and talked to him and pushed him around the property (stupid horse... he's lived here his whole life), but I realize that we've got to do A LOT more work on being alone. We've probably got to do some work with being turned out alone (he usually gets turned out with two other horses and they are very much so the three amigos). He needs confidence, and I'm there to help him with it. But man oh man, is it scary to think you're on top of a 1400lb animal that does not have confidence and is thinking that the smart thing to do right that moment is to suck back and then rear. Gotta work on that one before a show...

Monday, October 11, 2010

Why You Should Never Take Yourself Too Seriously

Sometimes we all get wrapped up in the competition and who is winning and what is going on and who is beating whom (or what horse is being put in rollkur) but I think that it's always good to take a step back and realize that we're all just there to have this great bond with our amazing animals. Okay, so... maybe not all  of us are there for that reason, but really "dressage" is training and within that training is the fluidity and movement that only comes from a pair that is is true harmony with each other. If you're up there, all nervous, or all tense, or angry because you missed that last change, then your horse can feel it. He can feel it in his back from your seat and he can feel it through your arms and hands in his neck and jaw.

I suggest that if you are having one of those days where you're taking yourself too seriously, to just step back and look into those big doe eyes that work so hard for you day in and day out, and ask yourself if it's really worth it to be so worked up. Go on a hack, take extra time brushing him or her off, take your anger out on a real super stall cleaning, but seriously folks, don't take yourself too seriously in all of this. Even Edward Gal has shit days, even the masters have totally dropped a horse at the WORST time ever and felt like a jerk. It's not worth it to get worried about and tighten your whole body up over, or take it out on your horse in some other way.
It's just dressage.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Boot Fitting.... again

Take two on trying to fit into my old amazing Cavallo boots. I've had them since I was a young rider and they are still in great condition. I brought them to the leather/shoe guy to have them stretched and have zippers put in them since my calves are not the svelte size they were when I was riding professionally, over 8 hours a day. Since the boots mean a lot to me and I didn't want him to mess them up, I stressed that I did not want him to over stretch them, but just stretch them a little and put the zippers in. Well, apparently this meant to the great shoe guy... don't stretch them at all and just put the zippers in. Which is just GREAT because once you put the zippers in, you can't stretch them. Well, I guess, you can't forcefully stretch them. You can sit in your couch and force them on your legs for hours at a time and try to stretch the leather out. So... welcome to my life now. The first few tries I wasn't even able to get the zippers up all the way, but now I can. As you can tell from the photo of my poor leg, that's what happened after quite a few hours of having the boot on over my sock (no pants yet). From left to right the marks are: edge of boot, zipper pull, edge of boot and snap that goes over the zipper. *Youch!*
I just hope that it gets better by show season! I guess I've got some work to do...