Calm, Forward, Straight

Calm, Forward, Straight

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Impressions of the WEGs

The FEI Rules describe the object of Dressage, which means “training” in French, as “the development of the horse into a happy athlete through harmonious education. As a result, it makes the horse calm, supple, loose and flexible, but also confident, attentive and keen, thus achieving perfect understanding with his rider.

What has happened to dressage?

Impatience. Greed. Overinflated egos. Not putting the welfare of the horse first... all of the above.

As a relatively new student (three years) but a long time admirer of the discipline, I wonder how it is possible that dressage could survive for hundreds of years, only to end up as the questionable practice one often sees in the higher competition levels? (classical vs. modern) And who is it that suffers? Always the horses...

Disqualified Dutch rider Adelinde Cornelissen in practice ring at WEG
Earlier in the year there was a (supposedly) thorough examination of rollkur by the FEI. While the leadership could not find it in themselves to outright condemn or ban rollkur, I believe that ring stewards were subsequently instructed to monitor and time the use of rollkur in the warm-up rings.

I'm not aware of what's happening in the warm-up rings these days re rollkur, but am very pleased that the ring stewards followed the rules yesterday and disqualified Dutch rider Adelinde Cornelissen and her horse Parzival for a bleeding mouth, and also an Australian horse who appeared lame at the trot. Interesting... Cornelissen trains with Sjef Janssen, Dutch rider Anky van Grunsven's trainer (and life partner). Both Janssen and van Grunsven are major proponents of rollkur.

Annoyingly, the Dutch team whined about how "tragic" Cornelissen's disqualification was. (Note: the words tragedy and devastation apparently have lost their true meanings) I can sympathize with how disappointing disqualification was, but rules are rules - and if your horse is bleeding or lame - you have something more important to think about than losing. How about your horse dumb@$$es?! Did this happen because of something you did to your horse? Should you examine your tack and training methods? How can you prevent this from happening in the future?

I am cautiously optimistic that positive changes are on the horizon in the dressage world. What kind of future is there for the sport when those competing at the highest levels are not always required to follow the rules, and are in fact rewarded for not following the rules, as well as for using questionable inhumane training methods?

I did watch parts of the Grand Prix Special competition today. While there was much tail wringing, many disconnected uncomfortable looking horses and lots of behind the vertical to be seen, there were a few high points. Steffan Peters' bronze medal ride, and especially Laura Bechtolsheimer's silver medal ride on her gorgeous horse Mistral Houris. I noticed that Bechtolsheimer took her horse immediately to the warm-up ring after her ride, and proceeded to cool him down with some nice on the buckle work.

Here is some video of a brilliant rider and a happy relaxed horse, a willing partner:

Looking forward to the musical freestyle on Friday!!

Monday, September 27, 2010

At the barn #23 - "This won't hurt at all.."

It's time for Val's monthly Adequan injection again, a maintenance dose for an old hip issue.

Near as I can tell from his scans (nuclear scintigraphy) it's where his gluteal muscle attaches to bone - at the third trochanter - and involves the flexing of his hip joint and movement of his (left) hind leg. At the time of his initial treatment he was having trouble swapping his leads and acting uncomfortable approaching jumps with his previous owner. It remains to be seen whether our work together will ultimately be affected...

Anyhow - Adequan not being inexpensive - I researched sources extensively. Recently I found out that there is also a generic version,  Acetyl-D-Glucosamine, which is substantially less expensive, as in the cost for 50ml is the same as for 5ml of Adequan. The only study I could find about one versus the other claimed that the generic was less effective. This study was funded by the makers of Adequan, Luiptold. (Please don't even get me started talking bout pharmeceutical companies and proprietary rights!) The person who told me about this generic said she gets it from the compounding pharmacy US Compounding. She felt that even if the generic were somewhat less effective, the huge difference in price would allow for latitude in frequency of dosing. I asked my vet and they said they had not tried it so far.

I'm considering trying out the generic if I can, but in the meantime, since I recently filled my current prescription I'll stick with the Adequan. Maybe the much higher price is due to the super cute little huggie they sent with the bottle??

Sunday, September 26, 2010

At the barn #22 - Lots of action and WEGs

Several long lost friends (haven't seen in fifteen years) and thirteen temporary boarders have been visiting since my last post, so not much time for riding or blogging. Hoping to catch up on horse and non horse chores now that things have settled down.

First - I wanted to share this link for a live streaming of the World Equestrian Games. The quality is really good and there is a downloadable schedule of the events. Today is reining and endurance. (What do you know -  the reining team is sponsored by Adequan)   :)

I'm psyched to find a nice live streaming video source for the games, as I planned to be on my way to see them in person today. I had tickets to the dressage grand prix tests and the freestyle final, as well as the stadium jumping final for the eventing competition. Unfortunately I had to change my plans. At least this way I don't have to worry about parking, weather or the whole rollkur issue lol :)

With all of the activity down at the barn this week - strangers helping with barn chores / construction, and all of the extra horses - Val has been as mellow and laid back as I've ever seen him. He was friendly and inquisitive in a respectful way to all of the visitors, and barely seemed to notice the (hoardes) of Tennessee Walkers gaiting around the property while they prepared for their trail rides. What a good boy!!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

In the Arena #27 - Relaxation

After our spook fest on Monday, I decided I'd better ride again right away. We had a very calm and productive session. Windy just like the day before, but no monsters this time... It was another lovely afternoon.

Afterwords there were lots of carrot cookie stretches and some fun liberty work. Val was following me around like a great big dog - to the delight of my friend taking pictures lol. He would do most anything for a treat (or ten) :)

Autumn Equinox

Yes you can :)

Monday, September 20, 2010

In the Arena #26 - Staying put

I was supposed to meet this week's boarders at the barn around midday anyway, so I tacked up and rode while I was waiting. Another perfectly gorgeous day here on the island :)

We warmed up and spent some time with the cones again. Staying even in my stirrups and on my seat took much less effort today (success!). Mostly - I was reminded of how light it is possible to be with my rein aids... it's the difference between the amount of contact in each rein, not strength of the aids. Another thing I need to remember is not to throw away the contact entirely when I am opening one or the other rein. When I got it right, we were turning both directions smoothly and flowing around the cones. I'm constantly challenged by how subtle good riding must be.

Now, for the exciting part :) Val was pretty looky on the way out to the mounting block... and at the far end of the ring, and on the left long side... and in the cones... admittedly it was very windy and the weather has cooled off considerably.  Can you tell where I'm going with this?

Sure enough I ended up riding out two spooks (!) The first one was fairly minor. I put it out of my mind and continued working. The second one was major... sudden dropped shoulder and head with a LEAP to the left, complete with snorting and flared nostrils. Not only did I stay on, I stayed in the center of my saddle and didn't even snatch Val in the mouth.

At this point my legs felt like jelly, but I thought I'd better ride a little more before we quit - not wanting to associate spooking with the end of working, so we walked around on a loose rein for a few more minutes.

This is where riding by myself gets scary. I always carry my cell in my pocket, and I always wear a helmet, but today reminded me that as much as I love my horse and riding, unexpected things can happen.

The best I can do is continue to improve my seat and balance, so that when the unexpected does happen,  I will have a better chance of staying on my darling horse. Keeping fit will help me recover quickly should we part ways and I hit the dirt. And Val won't think about what happened today next time we ride, so neither should I :)


There were presents for Val waiting on the porch when I got back home from the barn. A new tarp for his "porch" area, and a plush new cooler / extra blanket layer. We got green with grey trim, to match his existing blanket collection. It's so cushy and soft.

The cooler I found at Tack of the Day. Thank you to Gingham at Pia's Parade for the tip about this great bargain site :) Check it out!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

A very good cause!! Write a post, help a dog...

Hi! Our Mom turned the blog over to us, Sweetpea and Q, just for today. (It's usually ALL about the really big dog she keeps at her other house where she spends entirely too much of her time anymore, but we digress.....)

We know how lucky we are. Lots of love, a warm bed, toys and treats to share (and fight over)... exciting walks with our Mom every day... trips to the beach.. and most especially big bowls of food morning and night. We have it good, but lots of other dogs don't. They have to live in shelters, hoping and waiting for their very own special person to come along and find them. It can be a long wait, and sometimes it never even happens.

Please write a post and link your blog here. For every blog linked, Pedigree will donate a bag of dog food to a shelter. Dogs need your help!

(Remember - it's not ALL about the horses!! Love, Sweetpea and Q)

Thursday, September 16, 2010

These boots were made for walking...

Since we had the bruised sole incident a couple of weeks ago, I've been researching hoof boots. The vet suggested them for when we are at my trainers, (arena footing) or riding on hard ground /gravel. I've also been applying venice turpentine to toughen Val's feet up.

I know that I don't want to use Davis Barrier boots as they rubbed terribly and were super hard to get on when we used them for a pulled shoe last year. Easy boots look too complicated with hardware and parts that could fall off. Old Macs look sturdy and comfortable, but are the pretty expensive...

So, I think we're going to try Cavallo's Simple Hoof boot. They look super comfortable, easy to fit and put on... you can get pads to insert for extra comfort. They seem to be designed to promote barefoot horses, and the price is reasonable. If anyone has any experience with hoof boots, please share :)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

In the Arena #25 - Staying the course

I snuck away at lunch time again today to ride (it's good to be the boss). Actually a necessity as the mosquitoes down at the barn are unbearable at dawn and dusk ever since the hurricane.

We had such a fun ride! I set up a line of cones in the arena, and after warming up* we maneuvered around and through the cones... at times similar to (extra slow) pole bending :) Val's tendency to conserve energy / taking the fewest steps possible (natural laziness) helped us move very efficiently through our course once we got on track lol.


My focus was on equal weight in my seat bones and stirrups, uniting my aids and resolution of my aids. It's the release... the timing of the release, that is so important. There was almost no stickiness in our turning today - either direction. (!)

I just have to say - my horse is such a clown. If I were more coordinated and didn't mind bouncing my camera around whilst riding I'd get some photos of the goofiness that is Val. How lucky am I to have such a good natured equine partner. Looking forward to our next session.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

In the Arena #24 - A revelation

Saturday was a superb day... got to the barn early, did my chores, groomed Val top to bottom and then had a beautiful ride - our third this week. That is one of my goals for the fall and winter - three rides a week (at least). Now that the weather has broken I believe we'll be able to achieve it.

What made the morning extra worthwhile is that I had a breakthrough related to coordinating my aids... or more accurately I realized that I had mostly been thinking of / using my aids - hands, arms, seat and legs - separately. While I knew intellectually that the aids must work together, a "symphony of the aids" as Erik Herbermann says, I really hadn't had a feel for it before yesterday. There have been moments when it happened, but I wasn't conscious of it at the time. I'm psyched to see where this takes us.

Afterwords, Val got a nice rinse + carrot cookie stretches, and we did some exercises that his massage therapist recommended. She also told me it would be good to use one of those rubber curry things on the under the saddle and girth areas to bring the circulation back. Val approves of that suggestion :)

Yesterday was pretty close to a perfect day. It was everything I dreamed about before having my own horse.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Thursday, September 9, 2010

In the Arena #23 - Progress

Beautiful, beautiful day... fall is knocking at the door!

I stole a couple of hours around lunchtime and had a very productive ride. Looking straight through not at my horses ears and having an exact destination in my mind really helps with our steering issues. We were motoring around quite nicely today. Things were going well so I decided to move on to the trot... sometimes you can get the most energetic walk when you really want a trot lol!

There was some resistance when I asked for the trot... head tossing and crow hopping. I focused on staying on my seat and persisted quietly with lots of positive reinforcement. We did several transitions and I quit on a good note - but I could tell something wasn't quite right. After dismounting I saw that my saddle had slipped forward onto Val's shoulders - a couple of inches of the sweat marks from under the saddle pad were visible. I have been experimenting with how much to tighten the girth - apparently today was too loose... lesson learned.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

In the Arena #22 - Happy Anniversary!

While I was at the barn tonight, I got the nicest surprise. My boarders presented me with a set of dressage letters (!) and a lovely card, thanking me for helping Cowboy during his snake bite time. Super
thoughtful... I can't wait to set them up.

A milestone - today, makes exactly one year since I became a horse owner. The time has flown by. Val and I celebrated with a some t-l-c and a nice ride. The paintball fight  + chainsaw fest next door was a little distracting, but we dealt with it. I am looking forward to what we can accomplish in our second year together. I love you Valentino!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Reunited - and it feels so good...

I was finally able to get off the island and bring my horse home today... boy did I miss him. Thankfully he seems totally sound on his bruised sole, and is off the bute. By the way, Val says - don't even touch the bute tube and then touch a cookie...

It was a beautiful day for traveling. I've noticed that Val spends a lot more time looking out his windows than eating when he's on the road. We did have to drive through salt water and sand on the highway, leftover from the storm, but it wasn't a big deal.

Nothing says homecoming like a good roll!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Calm after the storm

This is usually land
Where's the road

Happy to say that we survived the treacherous weather... I'm so thankful. Just prior to dawn this morning we were inches away from salt water pouring into the house, but miraculously conditions began to improve just in the nick of time.

Some highlights:

I met Jim Cantore on the steps of the local grocery midday yesterday. I said "Jim - what in the world - are you actually staying for the storm?!" He gave a sheepish reply - probably a combination of everyone knows that Jim Can'ttellya never stays where it's actually going to be dangerous, and the fact that there were some less than welcoming messages referencing him painted on local businesses. When you live somewhere that gets really intense weather regularly, the hype and drama that happen on the weather channel and other media are at best tedious and at worst dangerously irresponsible. Our disaster shouldn't be fodder for television ratings and entertainment.

We actually had power for the entire event. It never even blinked once. Kudos to our electric coop. That made for a much more pleasant experience.

The powers that be are not going to let the last holiday weekend be ruined - our road on and off the island will be open tomorrow.

And not so much...

Several roof leaks, water coming in around the windows, blowing under the front door. This was particularly upsetting to Lucky Barnett (the cat)... she stationed herself as door monitor for most of the night.

Between 2 and 6 am winds steady at 75 - 80 mph, gusting to near 100 mph and 5-6 feet of sea tide. There was no land in sight anywhere around. We experienced weak side of the storm - I fear what would have happened if it had passed inside of us.

Looking forward to sleeping soundly tonight and cleanup begins tomorrow...

Thursday, September 2, 2010

In the Arena #22 - Notes from our lesson weekend

Lesson one - Saturday afternoon. We focused on steering... sometimes a sticky business. To make the exercise more interesting, I practiced zigzagging the arena, traveling to, from and around the dressage cones, making sure that we were very accurate. Way more fun than circles... (or eggs and ovals lol). Val is the type of horse that responds well when his mind is engaged.. so it's my responsibility to keep our work creative and stimulating. I must be absolutely clear in my mind and with my aids, about where I want to go. Clarity... always looking straight through my horses ears with a soft gaze... and no twisting my torso or shoulders. Keeping my hands low and following - making changes in contact through my elbows.

Sunday's lesson began with steering as well. We built on the work of the day before and got to a point in the lesson where we were adjusting our direction with precision and subtly. We transitioned into some flowing smooth trot work, including 20m circles of the round variety in both directions :) What a joy. For the first time, I felt very much at one with my horse... we were doing dressage!

Monday's session was more challenging. After spending about half the lesson building on the progress of the previous days, we regressed back to our steering problems. Actually, I believe that the issue is until I am totally consistent with my leadership, Val is going to be compelled to take over if he feels any hesitation on my part. I must be evenly weighted in my stirrups as well. I have been unwittingly contradicting my turning aides with uneveness which is super frustrating to Val. Also - I must envision what I want to happen (as opposed to what I don't want to happen).

Due to the impending storm, I left Val to board with my trainer. This is the first time I have been away from him since I brought him home, almost a year now. I miss my guy a lot. He's having a good time though, doing horse bonding stuff such as three way grooming over the fence with the chestnuts - Comfy and Howard - shocking as Comfy is the head honcho of the farm. He also disrespected some fencing and found his way into the paddock with the ladies(!). He and Lacey have been flirting with each other for a while. Glad he's safe and enjoying himself, but I can't wait to bring him back home!


Update -

Got a call from my trainer this morning that Val is very lame on his left front and there is heat and a big pulse. We're hoping it's an abcess... waiting to hear the vet report now. As my friend Jerry says, "Good news. bad news, too soon to tell." I'm super bummed that Val is lame but if he had come back home with a vet worthy issue we'd be in trouble. No vet will come here when there isn't a hurricane breathing down our necks. In fact, any issue needing treatment of any type would be a huge problem. Anxiously awaiting my trainer's call...


Another update -

Good news! Val has bruising of his sole... not super visible to look at but evenly tender to the hoof tester over half of his foot. He's in a hoof boot and has had some bute. I guess the combo of a very recent trim and working on hard ground... perhaps the giant 15 minute #*@& fit he had when he couldn't see his buddies?! Time for some venice turpentine I reckon... what a relief :)

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Battening down the hatches...

We're fixing to get a bit of a storm here. I rushed back from the wonderful weekend at my trainer's yesterday to prepare. Val and I had a blast! Will post more once I'm finished getting ready for the weather. As they say here, "That's the price you pay for living in paradise"...
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