Calm, Forward, Straight

Calm, Forward, Straight

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

In the Arena #10

When the student is ready - the teacher appears...

Unfortunately our Saturday beach ride was postponed due to a vehicle breakdown and bad weather. Despite the iffy weather we did manage a longeing session. Val had a different idea about what was on the agenda for the day however... A "phone lesson" after the fact from my trainer, helped remind me that I should start on a smaller circle, gradually increasing the size, and must keep Val looking in (look this way) to avoid him taking the line and running out. She also confirmed that my response to his noncompliance - making him work in hand twice as much as I had planned to longe - resolved our session successfully and kept Val from concluding that he might avoid work by misbehaving.

This afternoon we had a very productive ride. At some point I realized that Val and I have been systematically addressing all of the basics (that I thought I knew). Today, in regards to turning, I was reminded that although I want to "leave the door open" with the inside rein, I cannot abdicate contact entirely... and it must be even and elastic - through the elbows. As soon as I achieved these qualities in my rein aides, we were turning on the forehand to beat the band.

Sometimes when I am really struggling with my challenges as a rider, Val turns and gives me a look as if to say "Won't it be great when you get your act together!!"

Thursday, April 22, 2010

In the Arena #9

"Dive deeply enough into any subject and the questions that shimmer before you are spiritual." Jack Hawley

Today was easily the most frustrating riding session I've had with Val. It culminated with me sitting on his back in the middle of the ring, bawling. (quietly so the neighbors wouldn't hear) I'm embarrassed to admit it but that's what happened.

After I regained my composure, we had a few small successes and quit on a good note. In a weird way, having a mini breakdown was helpful, cathartic. I suspect I was letting go of something... control ?! One of the reasons I love my horse is that he is so patient with me. As I was untacking and cleaning up, he was extra sweet and affectionate... (resulting in extra treats, clever devil)

I stopped at the post office on my way back home and in my p.o. box was the book "Dressage in the Fourth Dimension". My friend and fellow dressage student Nancy had recommended it last week in an email - so off to I went.

This quote really resonated... especially after looking over a number of recent posts I've made:

"When riders obsess over correctly applying physical aids to the exclusion of any other consideration (such as harmony, balance, and so on), they focus on the physical, asking themselves questions like: "Did I give my leg aid at the right moment?" "Was my rein aid too strong?" When this happens, they forget the big picture." Dressage in the Fourth Dimension

I look forward to sharing more of this book in future posts.

                           Always keeping it light, Val grabs my "middle"

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

In the Arena #8 - Putting it all together

I rode my sparkling clean horse on Sunday morning. We had a very productive session. My seat (hips) felt much better after the adjustments of last week... a little easier to keep them even and loose.

During this ride I focused on my leg contact. What a difference it made in turning to keep my legs on! Often it seems I am letting one aide speak too loudly, (or one side of an aide) while another is nearly silent. It's a matter of balance. The lesson would be that I really have to have all of my aides coordinated... conducting a symphony rather than improvisational jazz lol.

Monday brought a visit from Will, our farrier. Val has gotten more relaxed each time Will does his feet. I had noticed some apprehension / discomfort when his left hind was done last time, (old injury) so we started with that hoof. Good strategy I think. Eventually he was stretching his neck way down and forward, and then practically falling asleep.

On Saturday we've got a date with Honey Bee to ride on the beach. Can't wait!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

At the Barn #7 - A Harrowing Experience

Lots of action at the barn this week...

 Val and I had a challenging but ultimately successful ride the other day. Highlights would be going from no-left turn land to lovely stretching left hand circles on the buckle. However I left the barn curious, and a bit frustrated - why the persistent troubles with turning...

Our landscaping business began mowing lawns three weeks ago. Coincidentally - my right hip has been super stiff and painful. Also coincidentally - I'm more often than not finding myself sitting off to the left in the saddle, with much more weight in my left stirrup. On Wednesday I (finally) realized that the seat for my mower had been adjusted by the fellow who did our winter maintenance - several notches back. This caused me to torque my pelvis substantially to reach the gas pedal, for weeks! It's amazing how muscular memory works - both for and against you.

Fixed the mower issue asap, and got a massage that afternoon, with a lot of deep tissue work on my hip - OW. I'm looking forward to our next ride hoping to feel improvement in my seat.

I received the harrow I had ordered. After mowing the grounds where I keep Val, I hooked the harrow to the mower and went to town. I was very pleased that a super loud mower squirreling around in his space didn't phase Val at all. Actually, I used the weed eater just on the other side of the fence from him and he didn't blink an eye. What a good boy :)

This had been a fairly stressful week with taxes and work obligations. Little did I know that spinning around the pen, leveling it out and improving the footing would feel so therapeutic, as well as scratch my perfectionism itch. I can tell already that I'm going to want to indulge in this activity frequently.

 Val got his first bath of the season this afternoon. He loved it. He was playful and relaxed the entire time. He's positively glowing in this picture lol... He also tried out his new fly mask today. While there aren't too many flies out yet - the mosquitos are chewing when there's no wind. I'm assuming he's worn one before as he didn't blink when I put it on.

I'm really looking forward to checking out the results of the bath and my hip adjustments tomorrow.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

At the Barn #6 - Making hay while the sun shines

I made the trip to my hay connection today. It was a glorious day for traveling... wild wisteria in full riotous bloom along the sides of the road. Dogwood and other flowering trees... the smell of freshly turned earth everywhere as all the farmers seemed to be disking their fields. The folks I buy hay from live a ways away - it's an all day affair to get their hay, but it's consistently high quality, heavy bales, and they are super people to deal with.

During the drive I had time to ponder what it would be like to board my horse. Get to the barn ready to saddle up and ride... stall clean, barn chores done, farrier appointment made, hay unloaded and stacked already. I suppose there would be drawbacks too... I am extremely picky about manure - (ocd) cleaned morning and night, every last piece... come to think of it, I'm particular about most everything regarding Val's care and upkeep. I'd probably drive a barn manager over the edge. (no danger of that happening anyway - the nearest boarding facility is  2 + hours away)

Now we're got 3 months worth of nice hay to get us through until the local hay is cut. Would have been a lovely day for riding but it was worth it :)
Happy Spring!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

In the Arena #7 - Dressage is the fundamental obedience training for the rider

There has been a recurring issue in Val's and my practice related to turning. (specifically left turns) For a while I thought there might be a problem with my horse, but since he seemed to have no trouble turning left without me on his back so that theory went out the window. :) Actually, turning has been my most persistent riding issue period - I'm sure my trainer would agree.

Today our work turning to the right went very smoothly, but when we changed rein we found it difficult to complete a round circle for much of our session. Val was cutting out at the top of the circle every time. Eventually we worked through it... after I realized (finally) that I was failing to sit equally on my seat bones - too much weight on the inside seat bone / leg with my inside side collapsed. Once I got equal on my seat the problem resolved. Val is a very good teacher as he patiently gives me what I ask him for until I figure out how to ask correctly for what I want... 

Part of the responsibility of the dressage rider is responsibility over one's body. Although I understand the theory for turning a horse... consistently practicing it is another matter. Too often I still have to run through a mental checklist of what I need to do (or not do) to achieve my objective. I am hopeful that as I continue to have these realizations, the proper positioning and aiding will become second nature to me.

"if the horse is cutting out, it is more likely that the outside seat bone is not adequately on the saddle because its pillar is collapsed, or the rider is leaning in. Other reasons could be because the rider is pulling on the inside rein thereby overbending the neck, or the horse has not been brought sufficiently up to the outside aids, or there is a lack of outside rein or leg." Erik Herbermann  / A Horseman's Notes

Saturday, April 3, 2010

In the Arena / At the Barn - Home Improvements DIY

Hallelujah - I think the lovely weather is here to stay. I (somehow) managed to keep my focus on the first really busy week of landscaping work this season while also making time for my personal gardening and of course - riding time.

Val and I had a very successful session on Thursday. After warming up we worked on transitions and circles. We are cutting to the chase much more quickly than we used to, with less monkey business and fooling around. Mostly we are striving to overcome laziness. To keep things interesting I threw in some figure eights, which are very challenging to my coordination... changing the dressage whip + switching diagonals overwhelms me sometimes... (I wouldn't call it elegant lol). We finished off with some energetic trotting on the buckle that had Val reaching down nicely. He worked up a decent sweat... after a cool sponge-off I did a bit of mane pulling.

Our ride reinforced my desire to move forward with plans to expand our ring / paddock area  - making it a more canter friendly. I've cantered Val at the beach but haven't felt totally comfortable in our current work space. This will be a big job. Another item on the barn to-do list was creating more shade and weather protection for the run in shelter. My extra tough tarp arrived yesterday and after a trip to the hardware store I was ready to tackle the project.

Val started off being very curious... and then helpful.
He removed the plastic bag of screws from my pocket (Could there be snacks in that bag?) and inspected each of the tools. Satisfied - he ambled off for his midday nap.

First I installed a gutter across the front of the barn. This was surprisingly easy.

Setting up the tarp took the rest of the afternoon. I earned my phd today... (post hole digger) :)

I'm expecting to be quite sore tomorrow but both Val and I are satisfied with the results. Now he will have a dark, cool space to hang out in the heat as well as protection from mosquitos and southerly summer rains which will be here before we know it.

Next we'll tackle expanding the ring...
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