Calm, Forward, Straight

Calm, Forward, Straight

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

In the Arena # 127 - The swing of things...

Fair warning - long catch-up post ahead...

Sorry for the extended absence. I missed posting to our blog, but I really needed the break. It's been dreadfully hot here, the humid air thick with flies and mosquitoes. Not inviting riding conditions for horse or human. Once you've spent most of the day working outdoors, it's hard to get excited about riding in the hot sun. Wedging the riding pants on in the sweltering tack room holds zero appeal.

The lack of rain has made our arena footing super deep. Val's feet slide down to the coronets with every step, and I can barely push the wheelbarrow through. To compound the situation there was no air conditioning in the Shimmy Shack until about a week ago. Cold well water rinses and watermelon in the afternoons have helped us get through.

Then there was a little problem with my ego. I'd been reading too many glowing posts about show successes, excellent test scores, informative clinics and began to obsess about the blog-ability of my riding. Instead of my priority being what's the right decision for Val in this training situation, it sometimes became I have a plan to accomplish this particular thing - canter departs, x amount of trot work, incorporating ground poles... I wasn't in the moment with my horse, making decisions based on how I could help him. I was concerned with the end result, but not always focused on the process or what was best for my horse. And where did that get me? Sitting on my butt in the dirt - that's where.

Despite the weather, we have had a few decent rides, mostly bareback. One was in order to try out a new bit. I found a really good source for plus sized bits -  after an exhaustive search. We had been riding in a 5 3/4" french link eggbutt, rather than the 6" he really needs. There seemed to be no options for larger sizes in the style I wanted, other than KK Ultras special ordered, and custom bits. I now have a curvy copper french link eggbutt, much like the KKs, but reasonably priced. Val loves it. He eagerly accepts it, and mouths it as I remove his bridle - taking his time letting it go. Wishing I had done this much sooner. And if anyone sees a 6" eggbutt french link with a copper half moon (more room for big ol' tongues) please let me know, as that bit I think would be ideal.

Our most recent ride was wonderful. High points were - staying focused on correcting my position, and Val offering forward, reaching into the bridle, and using his back. Captain Outburst was going to town next door with loud machinery punctuated by curses, and it didn't even phase us.

We've also done quite a bit of ground work, especially revisiting longeing and yielding the hindquarters. I've kept the sessions very brief and outside the arena on firmer ground. I used a rope halter, which gave me the leverage I needed when Val tested me. I refined my position, aiming my body more toward his shoulder than his head. I knew that once he got his head pointed to the outside of the circle I could lose him. Off he would go, bucking and rearing, tearing the line out of my hand. Instead of feeling him looking out of the circle, I had been watching his head. Now I'm concentrating on feeling through the contact of the line, and watching his movement instead.

It's been a good time to lay still and read in the heat of the afternoons. Mary Wanless' Ride With Your Mind - An Illustrated Masterclass in Right Brain Riding has been absolutely blowing my mind. It is the most inspiring, uplifting writing about riding I've read to date, besides Erik Herbermann, whom Ms. Wanless quotes several times. Think classical ideals conveyed through the prism of biomechanics, with an emphasis on acknowledging different learning / thinking styles, and written with a thorough understanding of the physics of riding. I will be doing a series of posts about this book.

Upcoming blog topics: Val self loads, trailer 101 with Cowboy, garden update, deer + gardens, fence building, tomatoes - why must they all come at once, tomato recipes, wasps in the laundry, wasp stings, snakes, snakebites...


  1. I'm happy to see you posting again! It's hard sometimes to keep our focus on the journey and the joy of our partnership when others are celebrating amazing scores and show results. I try to ignore that stuff and concentrate on my relationship with, and development of, my horse but it isn't always easy. Right now, I'd be happy to be riding at all. It does put things in perspective. I was so focused at the beginning of the year on getting Winston show ready. Then we lost our trainer for regular lessons and my foot got broke. I guess I needed a wake up call to what really is important. I'm glad you got a/c in the shimmy shack!

  2. Glad to hear your update, and thanks for the book recommendation!

  3. You are so tan! It shows that you have been a real farm girl lately.

    I always enjoy your blog posts and have missed them. Hopefully, you will have some time to write again. A break from the heat would be nice. This summer is one for the record books.

  4. Happy to see you back posting! Hoping for rain and a break in this heat for your area and mine!

  5. Glad to hear you got AC in the Shimmy Shack. That's good news. I don't know how you did without it. We've been miserable here too. One of the worst summers I can remember.

    It can be disheartening to read about how great everyone else is doing and feel like you're not doing well enough.But your refocusing on what's important to you and Val should give you peace of mind. Nothing is perfect with horses and our riding issues change daily. Rising to the challenge is what's important. And doing what's best for you and Val at that moment.

    Dusty has been challenging me lately and we've been working on how to fix her issues. It's taken some careful thought, good advice and time and patience. I know we'll get there but it is frustrating. So hang in there.

    Love your new bit and your picture with Val. I hope you don't have a post coming about snake bites because you were bitten.

  6. So glad for the update! Keil Bay takes a 6" bit too and they are hard to find (though if you ever make it inland to S. Pines the local tack shops tend to have big sizes b/c of all the big driving horses that live there..)

    As for all the glowing reports of daily successes and show scores, I feel the need to say that those things don't always equal good horsemanship or happy horses. I know you know that but I feel it needs to be spelled out as many times as possible. :)

    Love this photo - you and Val look centered and happy.

    And yay for the AC! It looks like we are in for a cooler weekend and I hope Keil Bay wants to take advantage of it with some rides. :)

  7. I've heard great things about Mary Wanless! My BO was taking weekly lessons from a certified/studied under Mary Wanless trainer until her mare blew a suspensory.

    She's helped me a bit as well. I'm wanting the book too - should order it now!

    It's so hard to not get lost in what we want the end result to be - and get discouraged because we're not where we thought we'd be, etc.

    I can say my bomb diggity test scores - yah huge for me and Rosie but can tell you - I wanted so bad to do training level by now and just not there. So much so I almost didn't go to the show.

    You and Val will get there and slow is the answer.

    As for no AC? OMG! So glad you got it now!!

  8. Omword, I've git tons to say...but my timer just went off. Sounds so very good!!
    B back soon

  9. I ride in my "best" ripped up jeans when it's hot. The holes provide some much needed ventilation. Plus, I can't bear the thought of squirming into breeches when it's hot. Yech!

    I just had my own little ego episode recently, as you read about on my blog. Same deal, I was pushing for an end result, and forgetting about the foundation. It happens to everybody, I think... usually several times ;)

    Can't wait to hear all your updates! Snakebites? EEK!

  10. "wedging the riding pants on in the sweltering heat" - what an apt description that was, thanks for the laugh!

    Good to read your udpate. Hey, at least you are riding these days, I'm jealous of you! one of my mares is now in full training with a trainer. My logic is that when I finally have time to ride she will be tuned up and in a program. Hopefully I end up having time to ride at some point soon!!

  11. So glad you're back. I miss your posts. (Also glad you aren't using word verification!)
    As far as ego and comparing to others, I think we all do that. I've learned that we all go through good and bad times. Watching some of the best horses and riders at the training barn where we are, I'll be a little jealous of their ability and progress, while I feel we're standing still. Then, a couple of months later, they'll be having issues and Rogo and I will be making progress. I think the best approach is as you sugest - stay in the present and ride to help your equitation and your horse. Sometimes easier said than done :)
    Sounds like you're reading a great book. I'm intrigued. Also intrigued by and looking forward to your coming posts!

  12. So glad to hear from you!
    I always enjoy reading about you and Val.

  13. Yay, you're back! Sounds like you used your hiatus well, despite the hideous heat and lack of A/C (you poor thing.) I can really relate to your comment about being in the moment with the horse. Things go much better (at least for me) when I take the time to tune into the copious feedback our horses share with us.

    Our temperatures broke tonight, and we're getting a nice rainstorm. Hope both blow your way soon!

  14. I am glad you are back - I have missed you!! This is a busy time for you (farmette) and with this heat plus no A/C, I can totally understand how you would be exhausted! I am happy that you are back on track with Val. You are such a great team. When I start feeling disheartened (and I do regularly!!), I remind myself that I'm in a 'relationship' with my horse and sometimes his schedule doesn't match mine and there has to be a bit of compromise. Patience is the hardest thing for me.... :-) Looking forward to your upcoming posts!

  15. Girl, I know exactly what you mean with feeling downhearted about other people's progress. Sure, I had a good score at a dressage show recently, but it wasn't on a horse I've trained myself. The horse I've trained myself runs around with his back hollow and his nose way up in the air looking awful. Frame shame! And then I look at pictures of other horses out there, young horses who've been under saddle for the same amount of time who are already "on the bit" and I wonder what the heck I'm doing so wrong. We'll all get there, eventually. I hope.

  16. Glad you're back, with your head on straight and no heatstroke. Congrats on the new bit!

    (Who was bitten by a snake? Hopefully it was an angry rat snake and not a copperhead...)

  17. Hot weather, bad bugs, too deep a footing, stings...and having to "Wedge" the riding pants on..all very good reasons for a break man!
    And that Val, sound like he's got the super fast way to bring one's ego down to earth again, literally so!OUCH!

    Very happy to hear of the good bareback times and new bit find that Val is relaxed with now.And-
    You conquered the Captain Outburst(s) !!
    So happy to hear that you are enjoying the MW book. It is a goodie and one of my personal fav's, as you know!

    Um, you've the very interesting and somewhat -painful sounding -"Upcoming" posts. Staying tuned here!

  18. I am in the same boat about reading about shows. It's the time of year. Good luck with the bit search. Our draft cross needed a 6in too. We ended up going with the dressage legal myler three piece. You would think with all the big horses around, finding the larger sizes would be easier.


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