Calm, Forward, Straight

Calm, Forward, Straight

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

In the Arena #91 - Farewell indian summer + better late than never...

Well.. it couldn't last forever. Shorts and flip flops still appropriate, windows open, no heat using, beach walking, horse riding weather for most of November. It was good for the soul. :)


Val and I got another ride in on Sunday. We worked for well over an hour, until both of us were good and sweaty. Lots of trotting - 15m circles and figure eights. Transitions and staying forward were my main focus. The upwards transitions are coming right along, although I'd like to continue to get lighter with my aides. We achieved some nice halt to trots. Also - contact is becoming more consistent with each ride. Val has many a foamy mouth lately. (loving it!!)

I also wanted to address getting prompt responses and more smoothness on the downward transitions. I  'filled my sail', corresponding to tightening my core and resting in the saddle, but also closing my legs and asking for some energy at the same time. Transitions always help Val to focus - I need to remember to work on them more often - especially if he comes to the arena distracted.

The rest of the ride I worked on posting and in two point. I'm continuing to improve my posting - my ankles are gaining flexibility. The best indicator is my horse. He blows, snorts, seeks contact and generally seems to be enjoying himself. Poor guy - he's had to wait far too long. Now I need to open the hips more so I get ears over hips over ankles...

So here's where I had a little epiphany. *eye roll* Sinking the weight down through my heels, which I (mistakenly) thought I was already doing, makes balancing in two point a piece of cake. Really, you say?! Yes indeedy :)  

Apparently, I've been bracing my ankles by jamming them down in the stirrups, thereby putting the weight on the ball of my foot, (and driving my lower leg too far forward in two point). Analogous to pulling a horse's head back into a fake frame. It may look on the surface like the proper posture, but it's actually produces the opposite of correct mechanics.

Hel-lo! How many times did my poor trainer have to remind me I wonder. I have a sneaking suspicion that I'm a visual / experiential learner, and decidedly not aural... :)


 Who knew that hay can be more dangerous than horses? I had another hay related accident. This time I fell between my tail gate and the doorway to my hay shed. Well, one leg fell between. The rest of me fell on the truck, doorway and under the bale of hay I was slinging when I slipped on some loose hay. My one leg smashed on the towing ball. I immediately felt sick to my stomach - said some bad words, and silently thought how much it would suck if I couldn't ride. Not if I couldn't work, pay my bills, drive or dress myself mind you... The knee is as big as a grapefruit but nothing is damaged on the inside that I can tell. Ibuprofren is my friend.

Oh yeah - this is my 200th post :)

Friday, November 25, 2011

In the Arena #90 - Just my 'magination....

Good Thanksgiving. Sharing the kitchen with my pastry chef sister and wine maker brother in law, cracking up at my delightful three year old nephew, and singing (belting it out baby!) along with a play-list of old favorites - what a great day.

The weather was perfect, so we capped off the afternoon with a visit to the farmette. (dinner was at my Dad's place) Val was super happy to hoover up some treats, Sweetpea and Q enjoyed our company on their evening dog walk and everyone got to inspect the Shimmy Shack + Seven's very special feet.

I am indeed blessed :)


Upon re-reading, the recent posts about Val's and my work in the arena have been on the rapturous side. While I aim to be accurate in my accounting - I honestly haven't had many difficulties to report lately - which kind of blows my mind... And since I'm without eyes on the ground, (still no trainer) it's easy to question myself, and wonder if wishful thinking may have gotten the best of me. More work to do in the confidence department...

Happily, my dear friend Jenn showed up to the farmette with her new camera today, just in time to document our session. It was another beautiful day shared with friends, and another lovely ride. Yay :)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

In the Arena # 89 - An attitude of gratitude

Val and I took advantage of some gorgeous weather yesterday to squeeze in a ride before the holiday mayhem sets in - the arena does have perfect footing at the moment. (!)

After a quick warm-up we moved right into trot work - with Val responding to nice light aids. I focused on balance in the corners, not leaning to the inside. Sitting straight and tall, even in my stirrups, and leading with the girls ;). Looking out through Val's ears - not down. Visualizing what I wanted to happen so that I almost didn't have to use my aids after a while. And soft following hands. Things were feeling pretty good, so I picked up quite a bit more contact than I have been lately, which Val loved. He responded by getting rounder and motoring forward using his cute little hind end. 

Most of all - I focused on INSIDE LEG TO OUTSIDE REIN. Thinking of getting that tattooed on my wrist - not even kidding... ;)

We had the most fluid, connected trot work I've ever experienced outside of working with my trainer. I have been trying to improve my posting by loosening up my ankles, and letting them take the weight rather than posting off of the balls of my feet. The quality of the trot also seems to improve when I can accomplish this. We ended our trot fest with what felt like a super square halt and reinback, and did some beautiful turns on the forehand - on the buckle and no stirrups. I'm glad I finally figured out that doing walk work later on makes our sessions much more productive.

Saving the best for last - (can't get enough of Val's cute little whiskery muzzle)...

Can you see it?! There was more before the cookies...

And when really Val enjoys our ride, he grooms me while I clean tack. Love you too buddy!

Yes - this was a hard shot to capture


Thanks to our kind readers out there in blogland. You never fail to share your inspiration, knowledge, support, humor and friendship with us. I am so lucky to have found you all, and I am very, very grateful.

I hope you all have a great holiday, and get to spend some time with your family and your horses. I'm off to the kitchen - Happy Thanksgiving!!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

From the Farmette #8 - What a long strange trip it's been...

Some of you are probably starting to think that I made up the Shimmy Shack and am actually living in my tack room next door to Val, sleeping on hay bales. Peeing in his stall (you know you've all done this). For various reasons I have not posted photographic evidence so far because...

Misplaced my camera in the move for a while

Found camera but neighbors kept running over my internet lines (because it took a r-e-a-l-l-y long time for my internet provider to come bury them)

Sometimes I skipped out on unpacking to spend quality time with my horse - mental health days

It takes a veritable storage genius with the patience of Job to solve the where will all my stuff go?! puzzle when you try to move (even a very small) house worth of possessions into a trailer

I will be officially + totally unpacked /  moved in tomorrow. (insert wild applause here) Photo tour to come ;)

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

At the Barn #52 - What's wrong with this picture...


Yep - my (definitely not underfed) horse chowing on the day old hay scrapings (layered with poo) that he was much too good to eat off the stall floor ten minutes ago....

"Um - looks like food to me? What's your problem?!"

Monday, November 14, 2011

In the Arena # 88 -
Do we think we're better riders than we are?...

Are we better riders than we think we are?

  • a feeling or consciousness of one's powers or of reliance on one's circumstances
  • faith or belief that one will act in a right, proper, or effective way
  • the quality or state of being certain

It's been a long time since I was a confident rider. As a kid, I was supremely confident for my first half dozen lessons. Heck - I was jumping by my third lesson. (?!) Then - surprise surprise - there was a bolt and fall where I got knocked out and dragged around the ring a few times. Things have never been the same. Fast forward...

Val and I had our best ride ever this weekend. We totally got into a groove. I think I coordinated my aids more effectively, concentrated on my position, and approached having soft following hands. Our 15m circles that were round and fairly balanced. We did bunches of smooth figure eights. We rode deeply into our corners. And best of all, Val reached for contact, (hallelujah!) without me doing anything except being there for him, consistently. It felt effortless. I spent the ride laughing and thanking my horse with lots of pats on the neck, and he motored around snorting and blowing contentedly. Afterwords, while I cleaned tack, he groomed me top to bottom, both sides.

"Hello - this is how I'm supposed to feel when I ride!". Not apprehensive, not anxious, not slightly nauseated. Please don't get me wrong - Val is not the kind of horse to be afraid of. He's so sweet and easy going. I've felt these feelings ever since I started back riding again. And I've had plenty of enjoyable and positive rides with him, but we've also spent entire sessions battling about who the boss is, or more importantly, why does she have to be so uptight?! Being un-confident and a perfectionist is a stressful combination...

I'm not quite sure what to attribute this progress to - we haven't had lessons in forever, but we've been moving steadily forward in the last few weeks. I can't offer any explanations, wise words or suggestions. But I'm psyched. I'll take it - and more of the same please!

one of my favorite things

less pictures - more cookies

told you I worked hard

so where's my cookies?!

check my new kicks

these puppies have some serious velcro

kisses go here

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

In the Arena #87 - Turning the corner...

Major apologies on disappearing for so long. Moving absolutely kicked my ass. If I ever have to do it again it better be when they're hauling me out for the big dirt nap. I'm not kidding.

Also, it took for-ever (a month) for the internet provider to permanently install my dsl connection. Surprisingly, my neighbors kept running over the wires that were laying across their gravel driveways. You know you're in the boondocks when...


I've been living with my horse for a little over two weeks now. It's so great. SO GREAT! I can watch Val frolicking in his paddock ambling around from one meal to another from the comfort of my bed. I can feed him breakfast in my pajamas. Without even brushing my teeth first. Heavenly.

Even better - I've already ridden more in the last week than the two previous months. Happy rides. Harmonious. Cooperative. Lots of transitions, with the focus on rebuilding our fitness by trot, trot, trotting. Keeping us moving forward is my main goal at the moment. Apparently Val appreciates it when I'm not a stiff jangly bucket of nerves. He's pretty relaxed himself these days. Hunting season hasn't flipped him out at all this year. We rode bareback today with hunters blamming away the next property over and he didn't even blink. Such a good boy deserves many gingersnaps!


I definitely won't be entertaining much at all in the Shimmy Shack. I had several family members shoehorned in there for a few minutes over the weekend, causing a little claustrophobic attack. If it can't be al fresco - it ain't happening folks. So sorry ;)


After reading Feet First: Barefoot Performance and Hoof Rehabilitation recently, (yes, I jumped on that excellent bandwagon - what a great book!) I decided it might be good for Val to supplement his magnesium. During the ten plus weeks without our farrier I researched white line disease extensively. The Veterycin treatments I gave him seemed to help quite a bit - my farrier could see the improvement. I'll be interested to see how much of a difference the magnesium makes. Actually, I'm thinking I may also need some. Lots of people are deficient in this mineral too. We're using magnesium citrate - it's more easily absorbed than magnesium oxide and can be found at

Speaking of my farrier - he's officially teaching me how to trim Val, as he may not be able to continue coming to the island. Several folks ditched on their appointments last week, and he was furious. Me too. I'm hoping he'll make it out here a few more times so I can get confident in the process. Fingers crossed. He's a patient teacher, and very generous with his knowledge. Thanks Will.

I'll have to close now, as I'm off early on another all day hay run tomorrow. My hay suppliers are giving me dire predictions about the price and availability this winter, so it's time to stock up. I'm looking forward to catching up on all of your blogs! :)
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