Calm, Forward, Straight

Calm, Forward, Straight

Sunday, February 19, 2012

In the Arena # 104 - Hope springs eternal II...

Firstly - we've gotten a number of new followers recently. I've tried to stop by each of your blogs, but if I missed anyone, thank you so much for visiting!

Don't know about you all, but when I go for too long between rides, I tend to get anxious. I worry over losing ground in our training, losing fitness - both Val and I - and losing my confidence too. It's so ridiculous really. We're not planning a bid for the Olympics after all. At this point, if we ever even get to halt at X, I'll be amazed. We haven't made it inland for lessons in ages. I had maybe four lessons in all of 2011. Now my trainer has moved away. And I don't have a saddle.

Nonetheless, I am determined to continue with the pursuit of dressage, no matter what the obstacles. I'm stubborn like that. (my fellow riders around here would say foolish I think) Days like yesterday are exactly the reason why.


After leaving Val with his head in the breakfast bucket, I came back to the Shimmy Shack for coffee and a quick look at the computer. I checked one of my new favorite blogs, SchoolYourHorse. The several posts I read precisely addressed our issues of late; forward, energy, lightness of aids and how my position affects each. I was filled with inspiration.

SYH's first good advice recommended energizing a sluggish horse even from the grooming and tacking phase. I realized that I had been purposefully lowering my energy level while preparing to ride - usually to appear calm. This recalled my former trainer's energy equation - your energy plus your horses energy should add up to ten. If your horse is a two, you must be an eight. Your horse is nine, you must be a one. Too right!

I walked Val briskly out to the mounting block, head up, shoulders back. I hopped on - still polishing up that graceful bareback mount - and low and behold there was an energetic horse under me. Next task was light aids. If my calves weren't answered immediately, next came my heels, followed by the whip if necessary. I realized that I have been inconsistent, lacking intention, and frankly a bit lazy with my aiding.

I only had to resort to the heels and whip once each. Soon we were marching around the arena. Then the very best thing happened. I asked for our walk to get a little bigger, and Val reached into the bit and offered me the trot, off of the very lightest aid. I felt as if I could have gotten the canter just as easily. Such a lovely feeling. It's amazing what our horses will do when we don't block them. Yay - forward!!!

We kept things interesting doing some cone work, with Val moving off my leg beautifully. I focused on sitting in the deepest part of my horse, head and shoulders up and back, looking through his ears towards my destination. All these things are such basics, but apparently I need near constant reminding.


After our ride came a walk around the property. Val followed at my shoulder, head down, super calm, even in the v-e-r-y s-c-a-r-y areas. There wasn't much grass to be found, so next we headed out the front gate, past the construction site next door, the formerly death dealing row of trash bins, and down the road towards the highway. The last time we ventured out was a year ago. I usually only go during school hours to avoid traffic and kids on four wheelers. A motorbike zoomed by and Val didn't even blink. We had a nice pick of grass, and returned home to take a few conformation pictures for saddle fitting. Lastly there was another picnic in the paddock. Val tried to steal my sandwich, my hat, my book. When all that failed - he licked my arm for half an hour. I love my great goofball of a horse.

On the saddle front - I've contacted Trumble Mountain about assessing Val. I'm planning to list my old saddle - first on ebay - then consigned if that doesn't work. I'm looking at a Sommer Egon von Neindorff close contact saddle at the moment. I really like this saddle - it's a demo model, so almost new, and reasonably priced. My trainer used to ride in one and loved it. No thigh blocks, mono flap. She said they fit the horse a bit wider, which will be better for us. Learning not to get my hopes up... well - not too much anyway.


  1. I think the anxiety of riding after some time off is natural. The mind really plays tricks on us, but you and Val sound like you had a really great ride. Good to hear that he's getting used to being outside the gate, rides on the beach can't be far away...

    The saddle you're interested in looks like a good one, I hope it works out for you. Bareback is great for lots of stuff but having a saddle is a plus too.

    Love the pictures of the Shimmy Shack. You really did a great job decorating, love the shell mirror. The critters look very comfy and happy.

  2. Love the shimmy shack slideshow! And happy to hear you are moving on with saddle fitting and finding some energy with Val. :)

  3. Super reminder about the forward button. I have to remind my guy right out of the stall to walk on and not drag behind me. Im glad you had a good ride!!

    I love our Sommer (although it is not the close contact model) and it fits all our wide guys nicely. I hope it works out for you and Val!

  4. Yay for being brave on your walk in the great outdoors! Does this portend trail rides in your future? It would be fun to see pictures of you two out and about on your little island :)

    Off to visit that blog...

  5. Thanks for the blog recommedation. I am going to check it out, too.

    I hoping the saddle works out for you and Val!

  6. I thought I was the only person who gets that feeling of trepidation when I haven't ridden for awhile. Phooey on your neighbors if they think you are crazy to keep working on your dressage. Its the best training for both of you -- regardless of whether you ever get to halt at X or not.
    I love your slide show of the shimmy shack. I hadn't noticed it before. Please tell me it hasn't been there for ages... It brought back my days of living in a trailer while we built -- but ours wasn't decorated half as homey and comfortable as yours.

  7. I have playlist of songs that get me energized in my phone. I play them while I tack up and usually keep them on for the ride, too. I've found that Spider's canter matches the beat of Jay-Z's "99 problems" perfectly! :D

    I'll have to check out the Shimmy Shack slideshow... How did I miss that?

  8. ^^ Shannon, I listened to 99 Problems way too many times before I took my first bar exam! (I did pass it, and I do know a lil' bit.)

    CFS: You practice dressage, and no lack of gear or trainers or arenas can ever take that away from you. You may not compete, but you do a fabulous job living dressage. I love to hear about those rides when it all comes together for you!

  9. It looks very nice!

    As for the anxiety thing for not riding~ does that mean I can blame any and all of my mental health problems on Boyfriend being lame? =D

    I actually own a t-shirt that says "Sound horse, sound mind." That's my excuse ;-)

  10. I love the slideshow of the shimmy shack - it looks so cozy and comfortable! Riding Val bareback is going to pay off big time when you get back in your new saddle. And sitting with him while you picnic is so good for both of your souls. I think life looks good, even without the trainer.


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