Calm, Forward, Straight

Calm, Forward, Straight

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

At the Barn #5 - Feeling like Delilah...

I spent a long time at the barn this afternoon. It was simply beautiful and I couldn't drag myself away. After manure duty, stall cleanup, restocking the hay supply and feeding were done it was time for grooming.

Grooming is a pretty big deal to me... because my childhood riding teacher insisted we always groom thoroughly before we rode... because it keeps you in touch with your horses body and any changes that occur - an early warning system if you will... because it's a great bonding time to sync up with your horse before you ride and most likely these days because I have a gray horse :)

Anyway - I went over Val top to bottom. I was coughing and spewing due to the cloud of white hair flying everywhere. We're in full shedding mode these days. Val was snorting and blowing with pleasure. It must feel wonderful to have someone help remove all of that excess hair - he seemed pretty happy about it. Mane and tail were last on the list.

Speaking of manes... during our visit to my trainers last weekend, we ran into someone who hadn't seen Val since I bought him - over six months ago, (when his mane was short enough to stand up). I asked how he thought Val looked and he said "You better pull that mane - he's not an Andalusian!!" Admittedly I hadn't known how to pull a mane properly and thought it wasn't a good idea to experiment - but I was also enjoying the thick black mane Val has grown. My trainer added that if I was planning on showing I needed to pull it so I could braid. I innocently asked why couldn't I braid him as is? "If you braided him now he'd look like a draft horse". (No offense to drafties - I love them!)

Reluctantly - I'm pulling. It's going to take a while...



Thursday, March 25, 2010

End of an Era... RIP Virginia Dare

Yesterday was a very sad day. An amazing 34 year old horse, the first native Banker born in captivity - a piece of island history, my riding partner for many years and my inspiration to return to the world of horses, crossed over the rainbow bridge.

The first time I rode her (the first time I had ridden in thirty years) she promptly took off with me at a full gallop. I could hear her owner Sue's cry "Ohhhhhhh noooooooo" fading in the distance. Time stood still as I weighed my options. Pulling on her only made her go faster and I really didn't want to get her tiny 13 hand frame off balance - she was (a very fit) 28 years old at the time - so I took two giant handsful of mane and crouched like a jockey until she eventually stopped. Don't ask me why since getting run off with, falling off and in general being scared of horses was why I quit riding in the first place, but I was hooked. (Afterwards it took multiple beers in quick succession to quell the adrenalin rush though lol)

We went on to have many wonderful rides together with Sue and Ginger's daughter Honey Bee. Long beach rides, rides through the woods decorating the woods trail for Christmas and riding in the Christmas parade with the other island horses where she unquestionably knew she was THE QUEEN. And she would have made a fabulous little dressage horse. She was always on the bit. She taught me so much and I will forever be thankful that I knew her.

An unfortunate choke episode around the holidays led to scar tissue in her throat. Her long term prognosis was slow starvation so the decision was made to let her go. I feel quite sure that she has already rearranged the pecking order of the heavenly herd, and is enjoying all the green grass she can eat.

RIP Gingerbear - we will miss you terribly.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

In the Arena #6 - On the Road Again...

Well - I'm happy to say it took longer to line my truck up to the trailer than it did to load Val. Our trip to my trainer's farm also easy. By midday Val was settled in and (very) happily grazing in a beautiful green pasture. I headed off to my brother's wedding with plans to return Sunday morning.

Our first lesson went smoothly with focus on aiding -
"as little as possible, as often as necessary".
Val has a lazy streak so I need to be sharp with my aides to keep him listening and moving under himself. I also must help him keep his neck straight for us to stay on track and not fall in or out of our school figure. Afterwards it was naptime. Dressage is such hard work...

I watched several other student's lessons and later that afternoon we saddled up again. This session was mostly trot work. Erin reminded me not to get stuck trying to "perfect" any one thing... momentum can refresh and help overcome issues. This is definitely true with Val as I find he will start to anticipate what I'm going to ask him to do. He needs things to constantly change up so that he remains interested and engaged. As we got warmed up and paying attention I was able to move him off of my leg rather than the whip. What a good boy!

We squeezed in one more lesson on Monday before we had to head back home. It was spitting rain so we decided to work on the lunge line. The last several times I lunged Val at home he would repeatedly run off bucking and rearing, dragging the line out of my hands with a N-U-T-T-Y look in his eye. If he was trying to intimidate me, it worked. Nothing of the sort this time. He listened well and started really moving nicely. I was especially happy with his focus because his (new) girlfriend Lacey, one of Erin's beautiful mares, hung out in the peanut gallery for a while.

I left for home feeling super encouraged about our progress as a team, and what our future holds, especially since it had been FIVE months since our last lessons. Erin's feedback will help me to develop me a plan for our training until we see her again. Most of all - this trip showed me that I have finally achieved confidence in myself and my horse. What a relief :)

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

In the Arena #5 - Nothing to it but to do it...

The weather has been much improved in the last few weeks - Val and I have taken full advantage. We've finally gotten into a regular schooling schedule and I can see the results. Today was our best ride yet.

Here are some highlights:
Good work on the buckle
No difference between left and right turns
Perfect 10 m circles
Great transitions, especially halt/trot, trot/halt

I was able to use much lighter aides overall - Val really seemed to enjoy working. He was relaxed (as was I) and I felt the beginnings of some good contact happening. I felt like I was working with my partner - and that's an AWESOME feeling. I want to feel that way every ride!

Afterwards, while we were outside his pen looking for a pick of grass, several deer crashed through the woods quite nearby... Val stayed calm even though his buddy Cowboy had a fit.

It has been very challenging to go through the last four months on my own, without the benefit of my trainer. (although I have been speaking to her regularly - phone lessons lol!) There's nothing like having another persons eyes on you while you're riding. On the bright side, I've had to take much more responsibility for my riding, as well as
listen more carefully to what my horse is telling me about my position and aiding. It's all good :)

Looking forward to lessons week after next... and hoping to get some new pictures of us working soon!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

At the Barn #3 - One is the loneliest number...

Val has a new neighbor. Cowboy arrived on Sunday afternoon. His people had been commuting 3 hours round trip to his boarding barn. I think they are relieved to have him home now :)

After checking each other out for a few minutes, the fireworks commenced. Val ran himself into a lather... bucking and farting the length of the fence line. Cowboy was much more laid back. I think that was the most exercise Val has had since I got him.

Both boys had a good roll to cement the friendship.

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