Search This Blog

Thursday, August 26, 2010


Today we had a great ride that was mostly compromised of gymnastics. Fire started our ride not wanting to connect and be through today. Granted, I hadn't been out there for a while and he had a good 4 days off with no instruction. So, when you're given a lemony horse, one has to be able to make something of it, right? Right.

So to get him connected and thinking in the correct frame of body, and frame of mind we began with some big 3 loop serpentines, and then worked into some good leg yields from the center line. Once I started asking him for the leg yields, it was like he knew what I wanted from him and began working correctly from back to front and into my hands. We were then ready to work into the gymnastic part of the ride. Since Fire had started so evasive, I wanted him to understand that the reins go all over the place, but the constant is that I need him to keep searching out for the contact without getting upset (he tends to get frustrated with this concept). So we began in the trot because this is what is easier for him and what he is most familiar with. I'd ask him to come up into the frame for one 20m circle, and then ask him to stretch down and out for a BIG 20-25m circle and then back up into the collected frame. Once in the collected frame we would go straight down the 1/2 of the long side, then around the short side, and then I'd ask him for a medium trot down the long side. After that I would ask him to collect up while going back into our 20m circle, and once he collected from the medium, I would begin again into the bigger 20-25m stretchy trot. I noticed that with this gymnastic movement up, down, up, and out he began to carry himself very surely and correctly.

After the trot work I actually did some canter work. Fire really HATES walk work, so I decided to do it last. In the canter we worked a similar up, down and out. In this he is not very good at bringing himself out and just wants to go down. He's not on the forehand, but likes to keep his head down when he runs, even while in turn out. I'm sure in further training I'll just find a way to reward him when he does bring his nose out here or there.

The final work was done at the walk. What use to happen, and if you read through this blog you'll see, that Fire likes to rear and gets very upset while doing walk work. So, I knew there would be some tension while I was trying to work him in this gait. So, I slowly was asking him to walk forward and marching, while having a loose rein and then having short spurts where we did collection. He did not throw a "Fire" tantrum, so that was progress. I increased the amount of time I kept him in the collected frame and by the end of the ride could get him about 1/2 around the ring before letting him back down into a looser rein walk. The only protest he showed was grinding his teeth on the bit. Though nasty, that's much better than what I've run into in the past.

I think this was a good ride that showed how far he's come in his ability to shorten and lengthen his body properly when I ask. It's a very important step in the training process and sometimes can get lost while one is thinking "collection collection collection". I'm sure while we continue to keep work like this strong, our lengthening trots will come very easy when I eventually ask for them in full force. Fire has an extremely free shoulder (see: "Fire likes to Spanish walk when he's pissed) so I'm sure he'll have magnificent movement in the extensions.

Bonus: another fellow boarder mentioned how Fire looks to be losing weight! Finally he's starting to lose his giant white belly some! Maybe he noticed that I was losing some, so he thought he'd try to as well.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Piece of Cake

I couldn't ride yesterday or today. I've got something weird going on with migraines. I tried to go out and even got as far as the car before I realized it wasn't going to happen. The headache stopped me from being able to see very well, which means I can't drive. So, I couldn't really get out of the house and get to the barn, so I decided to bake.

Now, I LIKE to bake, but I'm not afraid to say I'm a much better rider than I am a baker. I won't be on "Ace of Cakes" any time in the near future. But, it was something to do that wouldn't give me more of a headache (theoretically, though I did screw up the icing... twice!)

I decided to make my first layered round cake, ever. And in making it I didn't just buy some in-a-can easy to use icing... nooooo... I made my own icing. Mind you, before this I think I've touched the Kitchenaid mixer all of twice. So I dove in head first and on top of deciding to make a six layered cake, thought that I would make a Swiss Meringue Buttercream icing. It invloves double boilers and not too much heat and butter that is soft but not too soft and a hell of a lot of beating.

So, I made a cake... its six layers and I don't think it would win me any huge awards unless they were for effort, but it kept me sane for the day and showed me that I could do something that I never had even closely attempted before. I've got a few photos now of the prep etc. but for some reason my phone doesn't want to send the rest of them so I'm missing three... which includes that finished cake. It's really alright though, you're not missing a lot, its a round, badly iced white cake. [edit: got them to send and inserted them. the photos are now from top to bottom the start to finish. It's supposed to be a "rainbow" cake but apparently one needs an entire bucket of color to properly color the layers.]

I'm sure it tastes damn good... with how much butter is in it! Now I know why some people who bake stuff just watch others eat it. After making this thing I don't think I want to be 50 feet from a stick of butter right now.

So, sorry for the detraction from all things that smell like horse poo and sweat. I promise once I figure out what's going on with my migraines and get a hold on them and figure out something else to write I'll be back on the correct track here. But for now... let them eat cake.

Sunday, August 22, 2010


It didn't use to be like this. I didn't use to have to take drugs before almost every single ride. Now that my back has gotten as bad as it is, and I no longer keep myself in the amazing shape that I once did, I'm finding it a more common occurrence that I'm dipping into my "goodie" bag before heading out to the barn.

Everything that I take... from pain pills to nerve drugs to God knows what is prescribed to me. I don't take them daily and I try not to build up a tolerance to them, I've been there before. But I do find that it is becoming more frequent that I'm taking them for every ride. It started that I would take them for lessons. I didn't want to have my back freeze up on me while riding with Ryan or with a clinician, so I would preemptively take my pills so as to block things. Then I started taking them on the rides after my rides with my trainer because my back would be sore from riding so hard because I would block so much with the drugs from the previous ride, that I would need assistance for the next ride. Now its just becoming a vicious cycle where I'm starting to think about if I'm hurting myself by over blocking my bodies signals to back off and give it some time to heal, or if I just need to block things with the prescriptions and I'm able to push through them and will just become stronger once I get over this hump.

But I have no idea what this "hump" is. Is it just that the weather has been a bit wetter than usual so I'm reacting to that? Is it because I was studying for the bar and sitting on my ass for so long and then just picked up and started riding a lot after? Is it that I'm starting to actually ride Fire in earnest now and we're actually going to "work" and my back just can't take it? I don't know. I just know that I' get tired of reaching into my purse before each ride and knowing that I have to use the crutch of some pills before taking a lesson or having a hard working ride. I mean, it's not like I'm schooling Grand Prix here, we're working first level movements, and it's only one horse, not a barn full of horses like it use to be.

Monday, August 16, 2010


Today it was a bit cooler out than it has been for the past few weeks. I had gotten use to walking up to the stall to a lackadaisical young man that didn't care whether he worked that day or just had an apple and went back to bed. I knew today was going to be different when I walked into the barn to him screaming and could see black and white spots bucking and rearing around the end stall. I thought that he might paw through the stall mat before I opened his door, I knew I was in for some sort of interesting ride.

He stood nice for getting tacked up, which was great because the biting flies were out and not showing much mercy. I though that maybe his mini "hi Mom" tantrum was a fluke and it was just him showing how excited he was to see me.

No dice.

I started him inside just in case he pulled something quick and fast right off the bat. Did he? Not yet. We had a great start inside, riding around with another horse in the ring. He seemed to be listening well and moving off of my leg correctly, so I thought I'd go outside. I mean, we hadn't been able to ride out there with the weather for some time now, so it was a great excuse to get out there. Once he was on his own and not by anyone else, it was game on. Now... we've ridden outside countless times with cars and semis blowing by, tractors pulling up, tarps blowing in the wind... everything. Today there was nothing special going on, but Fire saw ALL NEW THINGS. All of a sudden it felt like I was riding a real-life bob-omb. You know, those bombs from Mario brothers that walk around minding their own business, until just the slightest thing sets them off, and BOOM! Shit everywhere.

So we're going along and I'm trying to get him out of bob-omb mode. At this time we're trotting along and I'm trying to get him to listen, so I'm doing some easy things but things that will try to get his head back in the game. I start just doing figure eights, except that every time we switch directions and I put my new inside leg on, it was like it was hitting airspace. He would just totally curl his body around my leg and toss himself out to the new outside. ARG! I haven't been so aware of where my feet where in the stirrups for a VERY long time, but today I was because I felt like I was riding on a nonexistent horse for a while there... a nonexistent horse that at the drop of a leaf was going to explode. It was so strange, everything that moved he was super sensitive to and had a "oh LOOK" face on with his head up in the air. I pushed through a majority of it and decided to not tempt to Gods and went back to the inside arena to walk him out.

Once in the indoor he no longer felt like a scared bob-omb, but like a pissed off child who just wanted to be done. I tried to walk him and he started pawing at the ground. This is a telltale "Fire is throwing a fit now" sign. So... we went back to work. Except this time the work consisted of a bunch of transitions... transitions that were each met with a twist or a buck or attempted rear for about... five attempts. After the five attempts we had two very clean walk canter departs without him throwing a hissy fit, and then we stopped and just stood for a while in one place.

Its nice to know that that last tantrum only took about five attempts by the Fi man. I feel like even though this post may look negative, that there is a silver lining. Every horse has a rough time here or there, but its good to know that Fire is seemingly growing up some and isn't protesting for the entire ride.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

A Great Lesson

I had a lesson yesterday with Ryan Yap at 1pm. Other than lightly perspiring (who am I kidding, it was gross and sweat was dripping down my back and off of my face), the lesson was a total success. I'd be lying if I said I had 100% confidence when I went into it. Since the last one was so bad, I was scared that Fire was going to have a repeat performance again this time.

I recently changed Fire's bit from a hollow broken snaffle, to a copper solid snaffle. I think the added weight and different type of metal in his mouth has been very helpful in our training. I find that he is wanting to hold the bit more consistently and since he now has more "respect" for it the connection is easier to find and his ability to just disregard the bit and toss it in his mouth is a lot less.

In the lesson we worked hard on our downward transactions and stretching. Since Fire hadn't properly been sitting with his bit for some time, he had learned a few bad habits. He likes to pull through the rein and pull me off of my center of balance when I ask for a downward transition, mostly from the tort to the walk. Ryan had me doing 10m circles and asking for the transitions within the circle, so that Fire had to push out and hang onto the outside rein. It really started to work with him, but we stopped before getting a "breakthrough" with it because of Fire's previous history with getting upset at the walk and rearing.

Once the lesson was over Ryan said that he could tell a big difference in the horse and he was stronger than the last time that he came out. He said that our next aim should be to start working shallow serpentines at the canter and counter canter to try to gain more strength. We should be able to set oen up again for this next Wed... so as long as the weather cooperates (can we say 105 degrees with the humidity?!?!) I should be able to work him through some more things and go even further for our next lesson. I'm sure I won't be so stressed this next time.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Mom: Back in the Saddle

Today I gave my Mom a lunge lesson on Fire. She hadn't been on a horse's back in over 13 years. She recently told me that she wanted to start taking lessons again, and would like to have someone to get on to do a dry run on before she "embarrasses" herself on a horse she doesn't know with someone she doesn't know. So, I offered up a lunge lesson with Fire... just a bit of walk-trot.

It was all very cute. She get on him and exclaimed "oh he's SO big" and tilted over and gripped onto his mouth. Good 'ol Fire just walked on, waiting for her to figure out what was going on up there. She started to relax though and find her center of gravity... just like riding a bicycle. She did really well trying to get him to trot off and even posted on the right diagonal on her first try! For him being a decently big mover, shes stayed with him, and he was great... taking all of her unsure movements in stride and just listening to me on the ground to keep on moving forward.

I think its really great that she wants to get back into riding. Its something that she's done since she was little and then kinda left when I started in with Young Riders and got an upper level horse. I know that she really enjoys it and enjoys the atmosphere of the barn, so it should be a great thing for her to get back with. I was really proud to help her get back with starting with riding with my horse, the same way that she helped me start when I was little and I began riding. Except I think it took me a much longer time to get diagonals!