Calm, Forward, Straight

Calm, Forward, Straight

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

In the Arena # 130 - Blessings in disguise...

It's been three (long, hard, hot) weeks since we lost Sweet Pea. The household is adjusting to her absence - some better than others. I've finally stopped expecting to see her when I come home.

Q is enjoying:

the entire sofa
no competition for food, real or imagined
longer, speedier dog walks and more of them...

If she could talk she would be saying, "Mine all mine!"

Then there was the renewal day for our boarding contract. The day after I put my dog to sleep. Boarder Mom took exception to abiding by the terms regarding giving notice. I offered to compromise by halving the notice period, but requiring payment up front for the remainder of the time, as well as notice in writing. BM refused to (re)read the contract or comply, and tried to argue with me about why she didn't owe me notice or money.

When I didn't give in, the situation escalated into an ear load (mine) of cursing and nasty personal insults. On my front porch. On my property. I had enough, and gave BM 24 hours to get Cowboy and their belongings out. I believe she was a little surprised completely shocked that I called her bluff. Best of all, I did not say or do anything I regret - which is an eff-ing miracle. I will miss Cowboy and his girl, but not pushy BM or having to beg for my board every month. The peace and quiet, the utter lack of drama at the farmette, has been soothing.

Losing the boarding income is daunting, but once I factored in having my second storage shed back, which is now filled with enough hay to last until February, it was easy to justify the loss of boarding income. Amount boarders owed = price of a new shed. :D

Even more than the financial implications, I was concerned about how Val would handle being a solo horse again. I'm not ready to add to the herd just yet, although that is the eventual plan. No worries about my darling Val. He has been super relaxed since being on his own.

He lays down to sleep every day. His vigilance while out of the paddock is minimal. The last time I took Val to the boarding property next door, he ran himself into a complete lather and acted ridiculous, responding to Cowboy going to crazy town, screaming from his paddock. Yesterday, we walked over there on a totally loose lead, his head down, following at my shoulder. He calmly investigated the area before rolling and having a good graze while I cleaned up after the horses that stayed over the weekend. Like night and day.

The footing in the arena is unsuitable for work again - deep and soft - so today I lunged Val out in the open, in the scary back of the property (site of future arena). It went very well. Val focused on me and gave me an energetic over-tracking walk. I'm going to set up a rectangle with cones and start riding out there this week. We've both lost some condition over this long summer break, so we're going to come back into work slowly. Shorter sessions, more often.

I have gotten a number of rides in recently. All bareback, several with no tack at all. SO lucky his back is comfy. One ride was on the spur of the moment after a lingering scratch / massage session, where I climbed the gate and hopped on barefoot (no helmet either - I promise I'm not making a habit of it). I got the urge to act like a kid on a pony, and followed through. We did some nice turns on the forehand. It was relaxing and fun for us both. The only bad thing that happened was when Val turned around while I took a picture and put most of my foot in his mouth. What a hoot he is.

Stay tuned for - our first real trim (by me), we are what we eat, and yet another snake encounter (!)

Okay - the mane is getting out of control...

About to put my foot in his mouth...

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Better late than never... contest results!!

My apologies for keeping you all waiting for the results of the "Be All That We Can Be" in honor of the olympics contest. I've had a couple of trying weeks punctuated by several excessively drama filled days. If bad things indeed come in threes - we're finished now.

Thanks so much to everyone who entered our contest. If you haven't visited the page with the entries yet - go check it out!

On to the random selection of the winners... 

Val was kind enough to help me out...

Yes - that's his tongue...
Uh oh - he's eating it!

It was almost a disaster, as Val tried to swallow one of the folded up numbers and I had to "retrieve" it! Anyhow - drum roll please - the winners of the Dressage Is  #1 foam fingers are -

Congratulations! If there is not an email address on your blog - please leave one in the comments for me, and I'll contact you about sending your prize along.

I have a consolation prize for the other contestants as well. I designed a little badge you can put on your sidebar - leave me an email in the comments  and I'll send it along.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

In the Arena #129 - Questions answered...

Results tomorrow. Odds are good excellent almost a sure thing that you'll win (if you entered).
Edited to add - Computer got tied up processing new software yesterday - this evening for real.
I'm sure the anticipation is killing you... ;D

Loved them to bits. The world really needs unbridled joy these days. Thank you London!!!
Feeling decidedly re-inspired in the goal accomplishing department.

Cutest horse ever?
Playcation over. A week of rain has restored firmness to our arena footing. Happy bareback ride yesterday. Pony still loves his new bit. Very spitty when we were done.

Started trying to improve my biomechanics. Worked on stacking my seatbones over Val's longissimus dorsi muscles and keeping them there. This automatically engages my core and my own long back muscles. Had several square halts using my seat only and a happy horse. (I've been practicing this on my tractor over our summer break)

Thank you Mary Wanless. I will be writing more about her book Ride With Your Mind...

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Olympic Dressage Freestyle - this is why I love dressage!

Yesterday the team dressage competition in London was decided with the Grand Prix Special. I am so happy to say that it seemed tactful, sensitive riding revealing happy partnerships prevailed, and was rewarded by the judges.

Congratulations to Laura Brechtosheimer, Carl Hester and Charlotte Dujardin!

Photo credit FEI / Kit Houghton

Here is a link to an excellent article from eurodressage critiquing a number of rides from the day, as well as detailing some welcome changes in the judging protocol established in London. Really good reading plus photos and a slide show of the special.

On to the freestyle... 

I really really wanted to watch the freestyle rides live.

How much? Enough to blow who knows how much bandwidth. Enough to squint through suddenly pixilated screens while cursing random advertisements that popped up in the middle of rides I've waited the whole Olympic games to watch (NBC - you weren't hitting on much my friends) while sitting on my tractor in the hot sun. That's how much.

I caught the (new to me) Portuguese horse and rider combo Rubi and Goncalo Carvalho. A lovely ride - hope to see more of them in the future. Also my favorite Spanish pair from the 2010 WEG, Fuego XII and Juan Manuel Munoz Diaz. Sadly, I thought they lacked the fire that they had at the WEGs... and it seemed like the same or a very similar freestyle as the one two years ago.

I hope all is well with them - when they are on, you can't take your eyes off of them. (I think I am in love with the baroque type horses - yes, I'm sure I am. I want one.)

Fuego and Munoz Diaz    Photo by FEI/Kit Houghton

Steffen Peters and Ravel rode their last freestyle together, as it was announced afterwords that Ravel would be retired. It wasn't their best ride - Ravel looked distracted and made some uncharacteristic errors, much as he did in the Grand Prix Special. Peters stated how much Ravel deserved his retirement, that they owed it to him, but he was disappointed to have gone out with a performance that wasn't Ravel's best...

The British riders, much as they have been in all three equestrian disciplines, were the riders to watch. Laura Brechtosheimer and Mistral Hojris were relaxed yet powerful, Carl Hester and Uthopia had the best music and were the most in tune with it - they were dancing and so unified - a sparkling performance. They saved the best for last however, with Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro.

I will edit to post video as soon as it is available. If you were able to watch streaming video, you overheard Dujardin after leaving the arena, overcome and in tears. As she was hugged by her crew, she said how Valegro was so tired, so knackered was how she put it. She said he gave his best, he gave her everything out there, he left it all there in the arena, and that she didn't have the heart to use her spurs on him. That's what it is all about for me... horses, riding, dressage.

How privileged we are to watch, and experience, such sublime partnerships.

Edited to add - This is a quote from eurodressage's article about today's dressage freestyle:

"When asked why the Brit was first and the Dutch second, Stephen Clarke, president of the ground jury and kur judge at C, hit the nail on the head and showed that the judges look for what dressage is truly about. "The first two horses certainly were very close," Clarke said. "The impression we had was that Adelinde had huge power and expression and for us there could have been more lightness and self-carriage. The horse crosses its jaw, which took down the harmony mark a touch. Charlotte had more self-carriage, not quite as much power and expression in piaffe and passage. One had more power, the other more harmony and self-carriage. Our decision was for the harmony."


Still waiting for the inside the arena video to become available, but in the meantime...


Valegro and Dujardin    Ken Braddock /

Dujardin   Reuters image

Reuters image

Photo by Jorge Silva / Reuters

Photo by FEI / Kit Houghton

Monday, August 6, 2012



Consummate horsemen + horses 
Rich Fellers and Flexible      Nick Skelton and Big Star    Ian Millar and Star Power 

Rich Fellers and Flexible   Photo by Tudor and Company

Nick Skelton and Big Star   Photo from

Ian Millar and Star Power    Photo by Reuters

Add to that list Boyd Martin, who considered the welfare of his equine partner first.
Boyd you are my hero! We'll see you in Brazil. :D

Boyd Martin and Otis Barbotiere   Photo from

Also, if you are watching the equestrian events via live streaming, you can hear lots of interesting sounds that the commentary obscures, such as the whispery clicks of shutters from the cameras, and the breathing of the equine athletes. One thing I noticed was that the horses who had the best rounds and scores breathed really regularly and happily... those snorting types of breaths. 

Definitely not loving...

Hyperflexion, which besides being used by the usual suspects in the dressage warmup arena, also appeared in the earlier show jumping rounds.

Equally objectionable was the blatant spurring and smacking with crop incident - well after the horse had refused, and caught on camera. Looked like a temper tantrum to me. Unnecessary roughness. Same team that was hyperflexing between jumps. This team shockingly did not make it to the final rounds. Poetic justice...

Looking forward to the Grand Prix Special tomorrow morning. Better hit the hay - 5 am comes early.

Karen O'Conner and Mr. Medicott   Markus Schreiber/AP Photo

Don't forget about our Be All That You Can Be contest (prizes!!) 
Accepting submissions HERE in the comments, through the end of the Olympics. :D

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